NORTH SMITHFIELD – The firm working on a long-term design plan for the property that once held Halliwell Elementary School presented an early draft of potential plans last week, with officials looking primarily at Phase I of the project: construction of a multigenerational community center.
The town has secured a $4 million federal grant to build the center, and has chosen the Halliwell property as the location for a facility aimed at meeting the needs of town seniors, while also serving the larger North Smithfield community.
At a recent meeting with architects from Bargmann Hendrie + Archetype, Inc., members of the Halliwell Review Committee overseeing the project received cost estimates for a wide-ranging conceptual plan including everything from athletic fields, to the installation of a gymnasium and a swimming pool. The effort to utilize the 32-acre property is expected to be phased in gradually over many years, with officials first focused on utilizing available funds to create a headquarters for classes and activities for the town’s older residents, along with other community groups.
That element, a two-story, 13,629-square-foot building with a kitchen, was priced last week at $14,765,000. But Rachel Young, a senior associate for BH+A, noted that the figure represents the start in a long process to include various ways to adjust and negotiate costs and other elements.
“I always like to over-design so you can have a conversation about deletions,” Young said. “This is a point where we can look at this and say: are we looking at the scope in the same way?”
The draft estimate included both hard and soft costs, with $2.5 million dedicated to site work including ripping out and rebuilding the property’s long driveway. It included a $1.3 million owner’s contingency, and dedicated $300,000 to furniture and fixtures, and $200,000 to an audio/visual system.
But Young noted that the current driveway could be serviceable, and Linda Thibault, head of the town’s Senior Citizens Advisory Committee, pointed out that grants are available for elements such as furnishings.
“There are various ways to further that conversation,” said Young. “There are definitely many ways to skin this cat.”
The larger design plan encompassed a full wish list of ways to utilize the property, with an 11,000-square-foot gymnasium priced at an additional $9.2 million; a 4,148-square-foot program room wing at $2.7 million; $1.6 million dedicated to athletic fields and a pool for around $10 million, with costs assuming construction would begin in November of next year.
Committee Chairman Jeffrey Porter described the early draft as including, “everything and the kitchen sink.” The committee, first formed in 2021, has gathered feedback from residents with a survey and public meetings to solicit ideas.
“This is everything that’s been asked for,” said Porter. “We’ve listened a lot to everybody. We didn’t eliminate anything right off the bat.”
“These numbers are not staggering for what it is we asked them to design,” said Robert Najarian, the zoning board’s liaison on the committee.
Still, Najarian noted that the estimate far exceeds the $4 million grant available.
“If someone were to ask what do we get for $4 million, it’s pretty clear that it would barely exist,” Najarian said of the center. “We’re going to have to face the reality that what we have available to us is never going to be enough.”
Young responded that her firm has, “not yet,” done the exercise of backing in the cost of what can be achieved for $4 million.
Town Planner Mark Carruolo asked if it would be possible to construct just the first floor.
“What can we do to start this project today?” Carrulo asked, noting the second floor could be added as more funding became available. “I know it will be a more complicated project.”
Young hinted at ways to continue to break down construction into phases and adjust costs.
“We’re eager to have these conversations,” she said.
Member Douglas Osiers, the Town Council’s liaison to the board, noted that the committee should begin pursuing alternate funding, such as potential corporate partnerships, in conjunction with the ongoing design work.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done,” agreed Porter. “We’re only at step one.”