New use for Old City Hall will benefit community

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The Connected Community Schools Initiative, comprised of two partnering agencies Rome Alliance for Education (RAE) and Central New York Health Home Network (CNYHHN), has plans to turn the Old City Hall at 207 N. James St. into a “Community Impact Center,” a hub where several non-profit agencies and community resources will be co-located — offering a one-stop site for an array of services and help for local residents.

Built in 1894, the historic building sits just south of Veterans Memorial Park on the west side of James Street. Its roughly 18,000-square-feet of space was home to city government for more than 80 years. In its newest form, it will continue its purpose to serve the people of the community, many of whom will benefit immensely from having access to resources which were previously inaccessible or unavailable.

The center will also serve as the main operations center for local school resource hubs. These hubs are currently being created in the school buildings of several area districts that participate in Connected Community Schools. Working cooperatively with area BOCES; RAE and CNYHHN are expanding their footprint to provide linkage to nearly 15,000 students in nine school districts for the 2021-22 school year.

“Our vision is to take what we have been able to do in schools and make it available to everyone in the community,” RAE’s Executive Director Melissa Roys said. “There are people we know we could be assisting who are unable to access our school buildings, for instance, our senior population.”  

The Impact Hub will also “extend the day” to provide services after normal working hours so working families do not have to take time off from work to receive services. Non-profits will co-locate within the Impact Hub and provide resources and trainings for those in need.

“Unfortunately, many agencies that work closest with underserved and vulnerable populations are smaller agencies that are not always able to afford occupancy in a centralized location. The center will allow for the true alignment of community resources by offering local non-profits an affordable option to acquire space,” said CNYHHN’s Executive Director Jane Vail. 

Old City Hall still occupies a place of great nostalgia and civic pride for many Romans, who can remember before Urban Renewal when the structure was a key link in a bustling downtown. We are hopeful that on the heels of the city’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative, which is already making significant enhancements to this key corridor, the latest effort for the building will help widen the DRI’s footprint and impact.

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