The Deerfield Community Center will move to its new space in Liberty Commons by the end of May, DCC officials say.
During a tour April 26 of the 8,800-square-foot new space, formerly six classrooms at Deerfield Elementary School at Liberty Street and Grand Avenue, DCC Board President Todd Tatlock said remodeling work there is “about 90 percent done.”
“We’re pretty excited. It’s going to be a great resource for the community,” Tatlock said.
The former school has been converted into retail and office space since a new Deerfield Elementary School was completed on West Quarry Street in 2004.
Tatlock said fundraising for the move and remodeling has progressed recently, with only about $200,000 of the $1.3 million cost now remaining to be raised.
During the tour, Tatlock and DCC Program Manager Julie Schwenn showed off new flooring, paint, and even a brick fireplace now in place in a Senior Lounge.
Some furniture, donated by American Family Insurance, is in place in offices and in the Youth Room, while some furniture is still anticipated to be delivered. The final major project, construction of a receiving garage off the food pantry that will also house walk-in coolers, remains to be done but Tatlock said that work is imminent.
Tatlock and Schwenn showed off wide new windows, especially a new bank of southern exposure windows in the Youth Room. And they spoke about progress on a 30-stall parking lot, where asphalt is expected to soon be poured.
They said three of the center’s rooms – the Youth Room, Senior Lounge and the largest space, a Community Room that can accommodate more than 100 people for meetings and presentations and is rentable and dividable into two spaces for private events like wedding showers – will all have televisions. The Community Room will have a modern sound system paid for with 2019 Deerfield Community Trust Fund grant.
The Community Room will also have twin 8-foot banks of countertop with sinks to accommodate food-related events, Schwenn said. And the Community Room will be used for senior meals, which will be prepared in the center’s commercial kitchen, Tatlock said.
The commercial kitchen will be rentable for events and could, perhaps, be available to caterers, food carts and others who need to do prep work in a commercially-approved space, Schwenn and Tatlock said.
“There are a lot of possibilities in this kitchen,” Schwenn said.
The center’s main entrance off the Grand Avenue parking lot will be key-coded for use by rental groups.
The Youth Room, Schwenn and Tatlock said, will have a ping pong table and a foosball table and Schwenn said the hope is to have some outdoor equipment to allow kids to take advantage of adjacent green space at Deerfield Fireman’s Park.
The Senior Lounge, they said, will be open all day on weekdays, with no need as is the case at the current site on West Deerfield Street for seniors to depart when it comes time for the food pantry to open or for children to arrive for after-school programming. Coffee and a television will be available all day in the Senior Lounge, envisioned generally as a space to hang out, Schwenn said.
A senior cribbage group, for instance, Schwenn said, would likely “enjoy the smaller space, with a homey feeling to it. And they’re not in anyone’s way. We’re not going to be setting up for pantry around them like we do right now. We’re not propping the door open to receive deliveries and have a draft while they’re trying to play cribbage.”
“I know there are a lot of seniors who are talking about how excited they are that they could come a little bit early, before a senior meal, or stay a little later after a senior meal, and just visit in this room,” Schwenn said.
The food pantry, meanwhile, Tatlock said, will be “is about six times the size of the current pantry, which is really like a closet.”
For the first time, the food pantry will have a private dedicated entrance and exit, and will have enough space to allow shelves to be set up as in a supermarket, with users given shopping carts to choose their items.
“We are increasing the privacy of our pantry, not only because it’s a requirement with our partner agencies but because we want to show that respect to our food pantry clients,” Schwenn said.
The doors into the pantry will be large enough to allow pallets of items to be brought in, something not possible at the current DCC, Schwenn said.
“Delivery people complain almost on a weekly basis about our current sidewalks and accessibility. That is going to be huge for our pantry, and for our pantry clients,” Schwenn said.
Into the future, Schwenn and Tatlock said the large size of the new center and adjacent green space could allow for some events that have been held at other sites, like the annual Bunny Breakfast that now occurs at Deerfield Elementary School, to happen at DCC.
“We’ll look at current events that are at the school for example — why couldn’t they be hosted down here?” Tatlock said.