HAMDEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The former Hamden Middle School will finally be demolished.
The school had to be abandoned 20 years ago when tests revealed contamination in the soil. Since then, it has been the definition of blight with broken windows and graffiti. State and local leaders said it is all coming down.
“I’m very pleased that we will now see a transformation of this site in the coming few years,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney (D-New Haven).
The last transformation happened more than 20 years ago when they discovered the school was on a landfill site used by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company in the mid-20th century. They found high levels of lead, arsenic, and other pollutants in the soil. Much of that soil had to be dug up and replaced, but the school buildings remained largely untouched.
“Our state saw the very deep need to invest in underserved communities,” said Mayor Lauren Garrett (D-Hamden). “Newhall, this neighborhood, is a very good example of an underserved community.”
Tearing the buildings down is expensive, but it also costs the town money to leave them up. The fire department has to keep coming out because people set fires. Public Works keeps coming out because people dump garbage. The police have been here more times than they can count, even once for a homicide.
State lawmakers approved a $5.4 million Community Investment Fund grant to start the process.
“Knocking down this eyesore is step one,” stated Rep. Mike D’Agostino (D-Hamden). “Step two is planning. Step Three is the Arts and Cultural Center.”
The athletic field across the street has already seen a significant improvement. A community center and cultural center will complete the transformation.
“Something that they can gather around. Something that they can appreciate, and it sort of is a blessing to the whole town, in my opinion,” said Minister Larry Mazon of the Christian Tabernacle Baptist Church.
It is also an answered prayer for the neighborhood around the former school.