Montclair has a lot to offer on its mainline, but a local group thinks it's missing one thing: a community center.
The Montclair Senior Citizen Advisory Committee wants to create a public space in town, said committee member Ann Lippel, which can be a place for local information, a space for local organizations to meet, and a spot to just hang out.
“The center will be a focal point for everybody in town,” said Lippel. “It is clear ... that there is a need for this kind of coordinating [and] facilitative presence. It will be a clearing house for a lot of information that is [currently] atomized in small pockets.
Lippel said another driving force for a community center is the idea of allowing older residents to “age in place in Montclair.”
“It’s a new concept ... to have people stay in their community after they have retired,” said Lippel. “It’s a very attractive idea.”
Councilor Renee Baskerville Renee said she was on board with the committee’s idea, and believed the building could be an “asset” to the town.
“I would very much like to be part of your initiative to see how we can make this happen,” said Baskerville at the council conference on Dec. 18.
“This is a very important thing,” added Deputy Mayor Robert Russo. “I’ve always felt that Montclair has not had the focus on its seniors as it should have, and now that I am one of those, I’m willing to spearhead this as much as I can.”
A social center in town could help both the community and township’s bottom line, added Lippel. Not only do elderly residents remain in the communities they have invested so much time in, but the township gets that steady, reliable stream of tax revenue.
A community center would “make it easier for people to hold meetings, and to develop a sense of cohesion and feel like Montclairions,” said Lippel.
The committee’s plan is to purchase the vacant federal Social Security building at 396 Bloomfield Ave. for the community center.
The township may have its chance in the coming months to purchase the building outright, said Lippel. According to the committee, the Social Security Agency has dropped its claim on the building.
However, the federal Housing for Urban Development is reportedly interested in placing a residence for the homeless there, according to Lippel.
HUD has until January, Lippel believed, to make a decision on the building. The federal housing agency could also reach out to third parties to construct the shelter, too.
Due to the potential price tag and uncertain timeline, Baskerville suggested looking at the existing town-owned building in Glenfield Park as an alternative.
“Because we might have the ability to use an existing facility to get things started more quickly, we have to look at that alternative,” said Russo
In addition, Russo noted Montclair is not in the fiscal position to begin bidding on buildings.
“We will look at existing [buildings] and then the possibility of the federal government [building],” said Russo. “... Because finances are a very big problem for us right now.”