Task force ponders holding ‘open house’ at Boulevard School

The Memorial Boulevard Task Force has considered possibly holding a “no commitments open house” for tenants interested in using the former Memorial Boulevard School.
During a meeting held last Monday, the task force discussed the possibility of holding an open house in early to mid-fall. Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, chairwoman of the Task Force, plans to present the idea before the City Council for input before plans are set. She said allowing potential tenants to walk through the building serves as a valuable way to reach out to people looking to find new space or on the verge of expanding, whether they are artists, businessmen or women, or other individuals interested in using the former high school for another type of use.
If the open house becomes a reality, Zoppo said it will ultimately serve as a guide for the Task Force’s recommendations to the City Council. The Task Force, which has considered using the building for multi-use purposes, including artist studios and business incubator space, hopes to wrap up the final report to the mayor and council by November or early December in time for the planning process of the city budget.
“It’s a way to gauge interest,” said Zoppo. “A picture is worth a thousand words and I think a walk-through is where someone willing to visualize how they might fit in the building.”
Zoppo added an informal brochure will be available for artists interested in renting space in the theater portion of the old school. The flyer will be available at the Rockwell Park Summer Festival and other events to start to spark interest in the building by all future end users, including artists and businesses, among others.
“I think there is interest, and if we can gauge what that interest is, based on what we’re trying to evaluate with the square footage, and the costs to maintain the building plus in the future have it be self-sustaining, we think that might be a good piece of how we do this,” said Zoppo.
Dave Mills, chairman of the Mayor’s Marketing Task Force, supported the idea. Mills said the goal is to ask potential tenants to look at the space the building offers to determine if it fits their intended use whether interested in studio space, a commercial kitchen, a space to rehearse, etc.
“Without seeing the space, the lighting, atmosphere, location, management, cost, etc., most people would not be able to visualize if the space meets their needs,” said Mills, adding an open house would bring the Task Force a step closer to filling the building. “The idea is not to get a commitment from these potential users, but to show the space and determine the level of interest. Maybe there are some uses we have not thought about, and a potential use and user will come forward.”
Also during the meeting, Zoppo said the former Memorial Boulevard School has been submitted for the state Register of Historic Places, and will soon undergo an internal review at the Connecticut State Historic Preservation Office for constructive criticism.
The next Memorial Boulevard Task Force meeting will take place on Monday, Aug. 25 at 7 p.m.