Early draft for N.S. community center priced at $14.7 million – with talks focused on funding, ways to control costs


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.”

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  1. Don’t bother wasting time on this. Sell it to a developer. Now let’s compare to our neighbors to the south. Smithfield has an ice rink, Deerfield Park with a senior center, performance stage, water park, playground, baseball fields, tennis courts and numerous soccer fields. They also have a dog park, beaches to swim, a new police station, numerous hiking trails – all owned and run by the town. But not North Smithfield, where the only town owned facility is Pacheco Park and a tiny hiking trail somewhere near 146. Congrats to North Smithfield for getting nothing done! Never has and never will.

  2. Another boondoggle expense we cannot afford.
    The property should be left fallow until we have an urgent need for using it.
    Raze the buildings and leave it be.
    We don’t need to build upon it just because we have it.

  3. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the Halliwell Review Committee and believe that they are doing a great job, incorporating all aspects of a multigenerational center. I have attended any number of their original meetings, watched them on YouTube and attended some additional meetings. A number of us believe that a pool is a tremendous community resource, that can additionally generate revenue. It has the potential to incorporate a swimming curriculum for every child in North Smithfield, host a swim team, teach swimming lessons and to offer deep water aerobics and other aerobic activities…it can generate revenue by offering birthday parties and payment for some classes…I also believe that our current parks and recreational activities can further incorporate more adult programming in all areas of the facility….is it costly, sure! But it will serve generations to come.

  4. I like the idea of a senior center, but the cost seems steep. A pool Carrie’s a lot of additional liability & additional costs related to running it. This center needs to be looked into for cost.

  5. There’s no conspiracy here folks, just a busy editor trying her best to cover a lot of information as quickly as she can. You should also know this is nowhere near a “done deal” or finalized price. We’re hopeful everyone read the context of the article….

  6. $14.8 million are you kidding and that number does not even include the appropriately $1 million in annual operating costs. But I am sure we will see the salesman math from a couple of council people who will tell us it is more affordable than you think. I am sure a former politician will add his usual two cents.

  7. This information was available last week but we are finding out about it effectively after the police station bond vote?

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