GROTON — Determined to move ahead with their proposal to locate a multi-million-dollar community center on the Groton Country Club property, members of the Groton Community Foundation recently entertained a trio of architects and their conceptual plans for the new facility.
The plans were presented to Foundation members as well as community leaders at the group’s annual meeting on Oct. 16, where new officers were chosen. Among them was Steven Webber, named as the new Foundation president.
“Our basic goal is to build a community center somewhere in town,” Webber told the assembled guests, who included Lawrence Academy Headmaster Scott Wiggins, Groton-Dunstable Regional School District Superintendent Alan Genovese, and Donald Palma Jr., the town’s new police chief.
The effort to build a multi-generational community center sprang from an earlier desire to expand and renovate the town’s existing Senior Center. It was soon decided that there was not enough land at the
Senior Center’s West Groton location to support an addition and talk moved on to constructing a new building at a different site.
Spearheaded by local senior Frank Belitsky, the Groton Community Foundation was established to look into the possibility of constructing a new facility that would serve the entire town, not just the town’s seniors.
Although the group had looked at various available parcels around town, attention soon focused on the Groton Country Club as the most suitable location. Owned by the town, use of the property would mean considerable savings by avoiding the cost of any land purchase.
At a recent meeting of the Board of Selectmen, Webber stated that the Foundation would solicit the opinions of three architectural firms, for ways in which the club property could be used.
Although the Foundation failed to win the outright support of selectmen for the Country Club location, members decided to forge ahead with fund-raising the millions of dollars needed to make the project a reality.
Three architects stepped forward with proposals, among them Timothy Hess, Joseph Rizza and William Stirling.
The three men appeared at the group’s Oct. 16 meeting with sketches and even a scale model illustrating their ideas. Asked to prepare concepts that were cost-effective and that included use of the existing clubhouse and enclosure of the pool for year-round use, the architects offered ambitious plans that incorporated much of what was already at the site.
Hess described the site as having an “exciting series of opportunities,” including the chance to add to the existing clubhouse and landscaping that took advantage of surrounding topography. In what might prove to be a touchy subject for local sportsmen, Hess suggested that some of the golf greens near the clubhouse might be moved back, to offer more open space immediately around the building.
Rizza said his concept could work with or without the existing clubhouse. He envisioned an “open and inviting” two-story main building — designed to look like a “New England inn” — that would be connected to an enclosed pool area in the rear. An expanded parking area could include overhead tennis courts that would also be enclosed for year-round use.
Stirling suggested turning the clubhouse into a three-story structure that included a redesigned ballroom facility and a pool area enclosed to look like an old-fashioned barn.
“This is much better than any of us could come up with,” commented a smiling Webber.
Webber said the group’s next step will be to arrange for a formal concept plan that would preserve the golf course and be adapted to the property’s ecological setting.
However, with payment for the three architects having been deferred until the end of the year, and more funds needed to finance the concept plan stage as well as future construction, fund-raising will have to be an important part of the planning process. To that end, attorney Ray Lyons appealed for donations, explaining that the Webber family had offered to match any money received by the foundation through March 1.
However, use of the Country Club location is not assured, as no official settlement on its use has yet been made.
Permission to use the land would have to be acquired from residents at town meeting, followed by an act by the state Legislature to dissolve the Country Club Authority, which currently oversees the property for the town.
Members of the Country Club Authority have apparently not been kept abreast of the activities of the Foundation.
“The Country Club Authority has not been in the loop on this,” noted CCA member David Hopper. “The authority didn’t even know that this meeting was taking place. So there’s been a bit of a communications gap. But we want to be in the loop because, right now, we’re trying to improve the Country Club.”
“We’re open to suggestions and ideas,” said Hopper. “But we’d like to be kept informed.”
To donate, make checks payable to the Groton Community Foundation and mail them to the Groton Community Foundation, P.O. Box 515, Groton, MA, 01450.