WALLINGFORD — Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. has requested that school officials take a look at how moving Wallingford Adult Education out of the former train station downtown would impact programming.
The historic train station, a 13,480-square-foot building completed in 1871, has been the home of Adult Ed since 1988.
Located between Quinnipiac Street and Hall Avenue, the building is also a prime location for commercial use. Informal talk of changing the historic building’s use has been around for years, but in recent weeks economic development proponents have ramped up their efforts.
Dickinson said Tuesday that this is a preliminary step before any formal feasibility study would be conducted on potential future uses of the historic train station.
“We need to know what the impact is to an existing service,” he said. “I don’t think it would be appropriate for us to start talking about them moving out before we’ve even talked to them.”
Specifically, Dickinson wants school district staff to provide an analysis or review of what it means to them to have Adult Ed at the train station, what they see are the pros and cons of moving elsewhere and what potential costs would be involved.
“We need to assess facts and know what the ramifications are,” he said, “at least I feel I need to do that before I can take a strong stand one way or another. We do the ground work first, and look at what’s feasible, what the ramifications are.”
School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo said via email Tuesday he and Dickinson spoke Monday and that Dickinson asked for “information as to the logistical/financial impact.”
Menzo said he plans to discuss these topics with Adult Ed Director Sashi Govin and the team at the school district’s central office, “as is my approach to matters that impact specific programs.”
No information on a time frame for delivering an analysis or cost estimate was immediately available.
Govin said Wednesday that no town or school district officials have reached to her yet about Dickinson’s request.
She said that the two main points she wants to make to Menzo and Dickinson involve the downtown location of the train station, which she said is integral to Adult Ed’s success.
Having a conveniently and centrally located space helps attendance because, she said, half of the students don’t have access to transportation and walk to class.
“Our town does not have a wide range of buses that service the town from day to night,” she said.
The other issue is that Adult Ed runs classes from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., which she said would conflict with another school’s schedule if the programs were to be moved to the location of an existing school facility.
Cost to renovate?
Changing the train station’s use from education to business could spark investment in, and eventual patronage of, the lower downtown, a longtime goal of the Economic Development Commission.
Dickinson said that he would want included in a formal feasibility study information on what type of businesses could be established and find a sustainable market.
He would also want information on the structure of the building, how it would lend itself to different types of businesses, and the costs of renovating the train station.
“If the costs are way out of the bounds of what is typical for that size structure and the type of business in it, that would make it unlikely that it would be feasible,” Dickinson said.
Costs would include bringing the historic building up to code on modern fire, safety and ADA-compliance codes.
“Once you begin a reconstruction on whatever you’re opening up for construction needs to meet at the latest codes,” Dickinson said.
The New Haven Society of Model Engineers leases the train station’s basement for a nominal amount to operate its model railroad club.
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