Town officials gauging community interest on use for vacant armory
WINDSOR — Town officials are gauging community interest in potentially transforming the vacant Vermont National Guard armory located next to the fairgrounds on Ascutney Street in Windsor into a recreational facility.
An exploratory effort led by selectboard member Heather Prebish is currently exploring options for the 15,000-square foot facility, which has been left unutilized by the National Guard following the Guard’s consolidation into another facility, according to Town Manager Tom Marsh.
Prebish said roughly 30 are confirmed to be attending a tour of the facility Wednesday at 4 p.m. to informally discuss possible uses and determine whether there is enough community support to pursue transforming the space into a recreational facility.
“It’s one thing to think about it abstractly, it’s another to be in the space,” Prebish said, adding that the discussion is purely exploratory at this point and aspects such as funding and construction have not been considered yet.
The armory features a large, high-ceiling central space that “could fit six or eight highway dump trucks in it,” Marsh said. On either side of the central space are wings that could be utilized for office space. The property also features a large fenced-in section behind the building.
The land on which the armory and the fairgrounds were built was given to the town in the late 1950s by two families from the area — the Kennedys and the Evarts — with the stipulation that if the land was not utilized for recreation, or if the building was not used as an armory or recreation area, ownership would revert back to the family, according to Marsh.
The land is currently owned by the town while the armory is owned by the National Guard. Prebish said the National Guard would be willing to give the building to the town if the town finds a use for it.
“I think there is community interest. It’s unknown what the prospects are,” he said.
According to Marsh, the town of Ludlow, Vermont went down a similar path when its National Guard armory was abandoned, and have since converted it into a town community center. Prebish said that if there is enough support to go forward with a conversion, the town would meet with other communities, like Ludlow, that have taken on similar projects.
“If there is interest, we’ll pursue it,” Marsh said. “If it does go forward, it could be a unique asset to the community.”
According to Marsh, potential uses suggested for the armory have included indoor soccer, lacrosse, tennis, bowling lanes, dance or event space, and indoor shooting. Interest in utilizing the space for recreational purposes was renewed due to the recent success of the Windsor High School bowling team, which has won the state title the last two seasons running, Marsh said.
Prebish also said the facility would allow for more recreational space during the winter months, and the fenced in area at the back of the facility could be utilized as a dog park.
“As the town continues to grow and we have new younger families moving in, the need for more space will increase,” Prebish said. “I like the idea of restoring it — giving it back to the town and having community members use it.”
Marsh said that if community interest in converting the space into a recreational facility is low, the town could pursue converting it into a light industrial space. Because of the stipulation in the deed, the town would need to discuss the stipulation with property owners to see if it could be removed in order to acquire the property and change its use.
Regardless of whether or not the building is utilized for recreation, Marsh said it is important that the town figure out a use for it to avoid the building turning into an “attractive nuisance.” He also said the building would likely need to be modified to increase energy efficiency.
“Everybody likes everything until you put a price tag on it,” Marsh said.