Town announces funding to reopen ESNC

Town announces funding to reopen ESNC

Renderings for the historic East Smithfield Neighborhood Center, drafted by Smithfield’s historic architect Robert Leach, show how the building will look once renovations are complete. A recent $295,000 Community Block Grant combined with $200,000 set aside by the town will push it through phase one renovations to make the building habitable.

SMITHFIELD – Phase one improvements to the East Smithfield Neighborhood Center will be partially funded using a $295,000 Community Development Block Grant from the State Office of Housing and Community Development awarded to the town late last week, said Town Council President Suzy Alba.

Town Manager Randy Rossi said phase one improvements on the ESNC, estimated at $420,000, are still out to bid, slated to return on June 10. He said the combination of $200,000 set aside by the town along with the block grant will get the project done.

Phase one includes “all the major aspects” to get the building habitable, said Rossi.

Improvements in phase one include framing and wooden sill repairs and the build-out of offices for community services and the Parks and Recreation Department. The scope of the project includes structural remediation, selective demolition, renovation of historic preservation, concrete work, masonry, interior finishes, exterior finishes, windows, door and frames, plumbing, mechanical and electrical upgrades.

“The restoration of the neighborhood center, with its contributions to the historic, cultural, and emotional well-being of our residents, will serve to bring the Smithfield community together once again,” Rossi said.

Additional work can be done after phase one is complete, Rossi said.

As for a timeline, Rossi said he hopes once the bids are returned, a groundbreaking may happen as soon as August or September. He said he is hesitant about putting out a timeline considering the ongoing shortage in building supplies, but said he hopes work can start quickly.

Alba said on Monday that the funds will likely get the ESNC to the finish line for phase one improvements at the center, which has been closed since 2017 due to several deficiencies and safety issues.

The town estimates costs for complete renovations to the center between $750,000 and $850,000. Smithfield has $200,000 committed to restoring the center, and officials say they hope to continue to bring in grants to fund renovations to the ESNC.

The center has always been a high priority for the town to renovate and restore, said Alba.

“I am elated about obtaining the funding necessary to be able to restore then building to its former use in serving the social, cultural and historic role that it played for many generations,” she said.

According to a release from the town, the CDBG will fund expanding the uses of the community and recreational facility by repurposing the building for “multigenerational Smithfield.”

The Smithfield Human Services Department and Food Pantry will relocate to the ESNC to provide meals and other services. Also, the Parks and Recreation Department offices will move to the center and provide outdoor recreation programs and a wellness center.

The ESNC will also have a community conference room, activities room and main hall for special events.

The Valley Breeze is committed to keeping quality news stories like this one free to our readers. You can be a huge part of this local journalism success story by making a one-time or monthly contribution to what we do every week. Thank you as always for reading.

The center will serve as an emergency COVID-19 satellite vaccination and medication point of dispensing site, as well as offer health screenings, seasonal flu vaccinations, telehealth services, and provide digital connectivity for health care and social services.

Façade improvements were done on the building last August, which helped designate the building as historic, and in turn, helped acquire federal and state grants.

The ESNC and grounds, including Esmond Park and Conservation Area, were donated to Smithfield in 1951.

The structure is listed on the Smithfield Register of Historic Places and has been a meeting hall since 1851, and been known under the names of Philip Allen Factory, Cotton Mills Estates, Enfield Mills and Esmond Mills.