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Community House demolition moving along

By Staff | Jun 8, 2016

Crews continued with the demolition process of The Community House Thursday morning, which began after the house closed their doors Saturday, May 7 to begin the long overdue renovation project. MEGHAN MCCOY

With the demolition of The Community House underway and moving along rather nicely, some structural repairs have been found with the historical room and auditorium.

“I’m glad we are discovering the things we are discovering on the historic building and making the changes to make sure it is secure,” Amy Nowacki, the architect of the project, said. “We have a good team with Benchmark and everyone is thinking on their feet and keeping on task.”

Nowacki said she has been a part of the demolition process, so she can look at what has been discovered while continuing to move the renovation forward. Nowacki said the structural repairs encountered so far does not affect the plans, but rather creates some revisions and modifications structurally.

“Architecturally everything checks out,” she said. “Structurally we might do some things differently.”

Nowacki said when refurbishing the historic building of The Community House they are making sure the addition and renovation is compatible with the existing building. She said she wants to be respectful of the building and its original intent, therefore creating enhancements with any new additions added to the space.

Crews continued with the demolition process of The Community House Thursday morning, which began after the house closed their doors Saturday, May 7 to begin the long overdue renovation project. MEGHAN MCCOY

Teresa Riska-Hall, Sanibel Community Association executive director, said part of the plan for the historic room is reopening the windows and taking the space back to what it was originally intended for.

Nowacki said she hopes the good weather allows them to continue, so they can meet their end date in either October or November when a grand reopening will be held.

The architect said she is very excited to be included in the renovation project because she has the opportunity to be apart of The Community House’s history moving forward.

“There is a lot of responsibility when you consider what you are building. I’m hoping it will last for another generation or two . . . building for the long term with this renovation,” she said.

Riska-Hall said they are saving as much of the wood flooring of the middle and north room as they can through the demolition process. In addition, a good amount of the plants surrounding The Community House were also saved and moved to the back of the property before the demolition began.

Crews continued with the demolition process of The Community House Thursday morning, which began after the house closed their doors Saturday, May 7 to begin the long overdue renovation project. MEGHAN MCCOY

Nowacki, who moved to the island in 2003, said she is very excited about working on the project because she has been visiting the island since she was a little girl. Her grandparents, who first came to Sanibel for a visit in 1953 on the ferry, bought property on the spot. In the late 1960s they purchased the adjacent lot, where Nowacki lives now.

Sally Kirkland, who has been apart of the renovation process, said she is thrilled they are moving forward with the project and is looking forward to getting back into the house this fall.

“After years of trying to clean the place, organize it and help do things, it’s rather exciting that it is really going to become updated and take its importance in the community,” she said. “Through the ages and through the generations, The Community House is still there.”

One of the many additions The Community House will offer the community in the fall, Kirkland said is a culinary center with classes, providing an assortment of education. She said she hopes people that are not familiar with The Community House really see what they are doing and want to become apart of The Community House family.

“Unfortunately it kind of got forgotten about as the facility got older,” Kirkland said of the house. “I really feel that it is a great place to keep families connected and keep the community together. I am really excited about the mission of the kitchen. It will be better for the shell crafters. (I’m excited about) the things we do and the new things we can offer the community. I am excited about that and hope everyone gets excited too.”

In 2008, Kirkland first became involved in the renovation process of The Community House as a board member after her husband Billy encouraged her. She said two years later, in 2010, they began interviewing architects and were ready to start. With a few setbacks the following year they became really serious about the project.

“I have a long time association with The Community House. When I first moved here it became a place I found affordable to rent space from to do parties,” Kirkland said. “Billy and I had our wedding dinner dance and had his 55th birthday party there.”

The list of parties at The Community House continued throughout the years with employee and Christmas parties.

“I kind of became my party place I guess,” she said.

The Community House has also been a place where Kirkland’s daughter has grown up. She said her daughter is a mother, raising a family, and she too is excited about the classes her daughter can take in the near future at The Community House.

The Community House Association is continuing to raise funds for the renovation project.

“As with any construction there will be surprises,” Riska-Hall said.

Ninety-five percent of the $3 million renovation goal has been met. Riska-Hall said although they are nearing their goal, they will continue to raise past their gaol for unintended expenses.

Curtis Appleton Perry, who was the brainchild of the Sanibel Community Association, visited every home on the island to begin the project of building the Community House. Sam Woodring provided money, and Frank Bailey organized various materials for the building. Cordelia Nutt donated the land for the project and construction began in 1927, the same year it opened for business.

In 1967 the first major addition was added, the middle room, and in October 1979 the main hall was boosted to accommodate 500 visitors.

For more information, visit www.sanibelcommunityhouse.net.

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.