At the invitation of the Downtown Planning Initiative, former Governor Don Carcieri, his wife Sue and their daughter Alison told the group at their regular meeting Tuesday night they plan to have the main floor of a science center open by summer.
The science center became a project of the Carcieris a decade ago when the town announced plans to tear down the building, which had been neglected and was deteriorating. The building sits on the northeast corner of Academy Field just behind St. Luke's Church.
The structure was a boy’s dormitory when the Greenwich Academy served as the high school for the region and much of the state. The Academy, founded in 1802, closed in 1943. The Carcieris' parents went to school there.
The Carcieris' plan was to preserve the building and create a children’s science education center, focusing on students in the fifth through eighth grades. Sue Carcieri is a former science teacher.
Using speakers, volunteers and changing themes, the center will encourage the interest of young people in science with sessions after school on weekends and during the summer.
The town allocated the $18,000 it would cost to tear down the building to help with the renovation. To date the Carcieris have invested several hundred thousand dollars in making the building usable. The remaining work includes installing a larger water line to service the sprinkler system.
During renovation, existing woodwork, doors and frames and other items original to the house were saved and will be reinstalled where possible.
Once construction is done, work will start on organizing just how the center will operate, which will take volunteers and fundraising. Don Carcieri said they anticipated having to raise funds, but he that he had not been comfortable doing that while serving as governor. The long-range view is for extensive program offerings, but to keep operating expenses low by using volunteers and others with a passion for science and math.
In response as to how the DPI could help, the Carcieris suggested they could help by raising awareness and helping identify people willing to be involved.
When the heating system is in place, DPI members will hold one of their regular meetings in the building to get an idea of how it might be used when completed.
The DPI, which is currently a committee of the town, is converting to a nonprofit and changing its name to the Main Street Association, a process that is moving forward.
Michelle Clark and Amy Moore, who co-chaired the Thanksgiving weekendin partnership with the Lion's Club, reported it raised some $8,000 for the Interfaith Food Pantry.
Board Chairman Doug Truesdell told members is already generating phone calls from people willing to donate to the restoration. He said the grant would take care of the fire code issues, and another $60,000 to $80,000 would be needed to finish the renovation. The DPI will be focusing on helping with that project, and Truesdell, also a member of the Odeum board, said it would be his primary focus for the next three months.
Looking down the road, a committee is refining details of a major kick-off event in the spring. The concept is a Hill and Harbour Wine Festival on Saturday, May 19.