Hanover Seeks Bigger Rec Center
After her Pilates class at the Black Community Center in Hanover yesterday, Marilyn Denk, of Hanover, looks at a lot and building the town would like to purchase for the center’s expansion. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
The multipurpose room at the Black Recreation and Senior Center. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
After finishing their pilates class, instructor Susan Burke, with participants Bryant Denk, and Eleanor Arkowitz, both of Hanover, put their mats away. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover — Town officials would like to jump on an opportunity to purchase a 0.4 acre property next to the Richard W. Black Recreation & Senior Center in hopes of tearing down a house and building a gymnasium.
When the town decided a decade ago to build the community center on a triangular plot of land along South Park Street, it did so knowing that the land was not big enough to include a full-size gymnasium, but went ahead because of the location — the community center is across the street from Hanover High School and just a couple blocks from Main Street.
The recreation department is constantly fighting for gym space at the Richmond Middle School and the Ray School, and often children in the third to sixth grades practice basketball as late as 8 or 9 p.m. The school gyms aren’t available during the summers or during the day, and school priorities often leave the recreation department scrambling to find gym time for its 20 basketball teams.
“If you had the facility, you wouldn’t have any trouble filling it. There would be enough activities to get people in there,” Recreation Director Hank Tenney said.
In Hanover, the school district only provides athletic opportunities for high school students, leaving all sport activities for eighth grade and younger to the responsibility of the recreation department.
And while the department appreciates the use of the middle school and elementary school gymnasiums, it could use the extra gym space, Tenney said.
For example, enrollment for summer camps are limited because the recreation building can hold only a limited number of children. With a full-size gymnasium, Tenney estimates that enrollment for the camps could be unlimited.
The community center has a multi-purpose room that is disguised as a gym with a lone basketball hoop and a three-point line drawn on the wooden floor. On Wednesday, a Taekwondo class had spread out blue mats on the floor of the multi-purpose room while a belly dance class met upstairs, along with an ILEAD class. With the additional space, classes that usually meet only twice a week could expand to five times a week, Tenney said.
“There’s a difference between a school owning a gym and a town recreation department owning a gym,” Town Manager Julia Griffin said. “We want a gym that’s going from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., where folks can come in and play pickup basketball after our groups are done. We’ll still need the school gyms, but this will be our front line.”
But all of this is contingent on Town Meeting. The town has received a $600,000 donation from an anonymous donor to purchase the property. At the May 14 Town Meeting, residents will have to give the town permission to accept the donation and purchase the property. A Town Meeting vote will not give approval to build a gym, however, and the town will have to come back before voters with a bond proposal after architectural designs are completed.
Voters at Town Meeting will also have to approve the spending of $25,000 from the Land and Capital Improvement Fund to retain an architect. Adding a gymnasium would also require an additional 12 to 15 parking spaces.
If plans for the gym move forward, the town hopes to start a fundraising campaign, and Tenney said he’d like to raise enough money to pay for half of the construction costs. When the community center was built in 2003, 50 percent of the construction costs, or $1.5 million, came from donations, while taxpayers picked up the additional burden.
The 44 Lebanon St. property was only put on the market in January. The total assessment of the property is $481,200.
A white house, built in 1940, and a small garage sit on the property. The house is divided into four apartments. Griffin said the town plans to keep the house and accept rent from the tenants until final arrangements for the gymnasium are made. Griffin said it could take a year or two before the town is ready to come back before Town Meeting and ask for the necessary money to build the gym. A preliminary design was conducted, Griffin added, to make sure a regulation gymnasium — 80 feet by 104 feet — could fit on the property.
The town already owns three senior housing buildings adjacent to the community center.
Griffin said the town would help tenants find alternative housing and could use the help of Twin Pines Housing Trust, a nonprofit in White River Junction.
Current owner Ted Thompson said the apartments aren’t technically considered affordable housing, but the rents are below market value. Ted and his wife Ann have owned a half interest in the property since 2006, and Ann’s mother, Elizabeth Crory, has owned the property since 1976.
Ted Thompson said he’s been the primary person maintaining the property, and he’s approaching retirement age and ready to get out of the real estate business.
He also owns homes in Haverhill and Piermont.
Thompson and his wife decided to sell the home themselves and contacted the school district and the town to see if they were interested.
Thompson said he’s aware that the town wants to replace the house with a gym, and he’s fine with that.
“We feel good about selling it to the town,” Thompson said. “The town is the logical person to buy, we always thought, because they own property on both sides of us. There’s so much the town could do with it.”
The tenants of 44 Lebanon St. know the property is for sale, Thompson said, and if the house is torn down, the tenants will have at least a year to find other housing, Thompson said.
“The house is an older house, it’s in good condition, it’s suitable housing now for four apartments but the highest and best use of that property is for something else other than an apartment house,” Thompson said. “It’s had a good life and it’s provided housing for a good number of years.”
Sarah Brubeck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3223.