With the Wallingford Police Department planning to leave its 101-year-old home on North Main Street for a new location on Barnes Road, it’s time to think about what new use that imposing building might be put to when the police leave, probably in about two years. That decision will be up to town officials.
Police Chief William Wright has said that operations have outgrown the 28,000-square-foot facility, which was built in 1920 to house Connecticut National Guard Company J, as the nature of police work has changed over time. The fortress-like former armory may have fallen short during its 35 years as a police headquarters, but even though it stands in the heart of the Uptown entertainment district, it’s hard to picture it as an inviting venue for another bar or eatery. With a fire station right next door and limited parking, the site doesn’t seem to naturally lend itself to either entertainment or retail use.
But what about using it as a school? Specifically, as a new home for Wallingford Adult Education?
That’s an idea that was floated by Town Councilor Chris Shortell at a recent council meeting. Moving Wallingford Adult Education to the armory would make room for commercial use of the town's historic former train station.
“Moving Adult Ed to that location seems like a win-win,” Shortell said, an idea that Council Chairman Vincent Cervoni also expressed interest in.
Even if the old armory turns out to have environmental issues, like asbestos, requiring some form of remediation, Cervoni said it may be that “most of that was taken care of in the ‘80s when the building was repurposed for its current use.”
That remains to be seen, of course, but it would be a big plus, because the old train station — standing at the most prominent intersection in town, next to the gazebo and close to the new depot — has been looking ripe for commercial development of some kind.
Those in favor of changing the station's use from education to business say it could spark investment in the lower downtown, which has been a longtime goal of the Economic Development Commission.
Adult Education Director Sashi Govin said that the central location of the train station is integral to Adult Ed's success, because half of the students walk to class and bus service in town is scarce.
Surely the needs of the Adult Ed students should bear great weight here. But the old armory is also centrally located. Could it not serve Adult Ed equally well?
It’s something to ponder.