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    Parish Hall a gem in Citywide School Construction

    (8/29/2006) Members of the School-Based Building Advisory Committee will get their first peek at the newly restored Parish Hall at 174 Kimberly Ave. on Thursday, Aug. 31, at 12:15 p.m.

    The tour highlights a unique gem of the Citywide School Construction Program, a parish hall once attached to St. Peterís Church that languished until a committee appointed by Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. breathed new life in what is a stunning restoration.

    Now, the Parish Hall is 4,300 square feet of gleaming hardwood floors, stripped and restained interior paneling, a new exterior and even a new bell in the belfry. The restored hall will serve as both a new community space and extra performance space for the adjoining Betsy Ross Arts Magnet School.

    In the late 1990s, the City of New Haven bought the Parish Hall along with various St. Peterís buildings on Kimberly Avenue to build the new Betsy Ross Arts Magnet Middle School. The school opened in February 2002. In the meantime, Mayor John DeStefano established the St. Peterís Parish Hall Reuse Committee to recommend how the parish hall could be fixed up and used. Alderman Jorge Perez of the 5th ward and Edward Bottomley, then-President of the New Haven Preservation Trust, co-chaired that committee, which include the school principal and staff, the alderwoman from the 6th ward, neighborhood residents, and other members.

    Instead of demolishing the former St. Peterís parish hall, the City committed to a reuse of the building. The parish hall was built in 1902 and is now owned by the Board of Education.

    The committee hosted an open house and community meeting and surveyed residents in 2001. In 2003, a design was presented to the community, incorporating the plans for the building to be used by the school during the school day, for performances and arts activities, and by the community after hours, for various arts and civic activities.

    The $1.6 million project began with renovations in the spring of 2005, respecting the buildingís 100-year-old history. Work included: new utilities and heating/air conditioning; remodeled first-floor bathrooms; stripped and restained interior paneling and surfaces; new wood flooring and stage; new wheelchair lift at stage; new exterior wood siding; new permanent stairs and ramps; new windows; a new upper roof; new exterior doors and vestibule; a new bell in the belfry; new exterior landscaping and other site improvements.

    The architect is David Barkin of Barkin Associates, and Paragon Construction Company served as the General Contractor.

    The building will be ready for the start of school September 6, although much of its new furniture will be installed after that. A dedication will take place in the fall

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