Federal funds will help the Town of Smithfield complete the Phase I Restoration of the East Smithfield Neighborhood Center & help preserve the building as a community hub

SMITHFIELD, RI – In an effort to preserve the historic nature of the East Smithfield Neighborhood Center and help the town re-open it to serve the community, U.S. Senator Jack Reed and Congressman David Cicilline helped secure a $295,000 earmark for restoration of the East Smithfield Neighborhood Center in the fiscal year 2022 Consolidated Appropriations Act, which President Biden signed into law in March.

The Reed-Cicilline earmark builds on previous federal grants directed toward the project, including $550,000 in American Rescue Plan Act spending and a $295,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) award that was set aside in 2021, bringing the total federal funding commitment for the project to $1.14 million.

Today, Senator Reed and Congressman Cicilline joined Town Manager Randy Rossi; Council President Suzy Alba; Smithfield Historic Preservation Commission Chairman Robert Leach; and community partners to tour the East Smithfield Neighborhood Center and get an update on the renovation project.

According to the Smithfield Historic Preservation Commission, the East Smithfield Neighborhood Center building dates back more than a century, to the early 1900s.  The building has served local residents in a variety of capacities: from a meeting hall in the early 20th century to the addition of a school wing and an expanded hall that was used as a silent movie theater.  At times, the facility also housed a public library, a bowling alley, and recreational facilities.  In 1951, the building was gifted to the Town under a deed containing the stipulation that: “The premise shall hereafter be used exclusively for recreational purposes for the use and enjoyment of the residents of the Town of Smithfield, Rhode Island.”

Since that time, the East Smithfield Neighborhood Center remained open for residents until 2017, when it was forced to close due to structural deficiencies. The East Smithfield Neighborhood Center Building Committee was then formed with the mission of restoring the building while preserving its historical significance.

The new vision for the East Smithfield Neighborhood Center includes repurposing the building to offer recreational, youth, exercise, and health programs in the Community Services wing; an overhauled Community Food Pantry; new Smithfield Recreation Department offices to better oversee all public programs, including on-site events in the Main Hall; and a new Recreation Department conference room.

Renovations will include exterior insulation, window and door replacement, siding, and roof replacement; upgrades to existing bathrooms; Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance; touchless technology to include keyless entries, faucets, lighting and HVAC; updating all interior finishes and coatings, as well as all new electrical, mechanical, and plumbing systems.  Wi-Fi services will also be included to support those without access to the Internet at home for services such as tele-health to reach primary care and behavioral health providers for residents.  In addition to the interior renovations, the project includes improving a trail connecting the center with nearby walking trails and pond at Esmond Park & Conservation Area, so residents can increase recreation outdoors.

“This project has been a town priority for many years and I’m pleased to deliver federal funds to help advance it.  This federal investment will ensure the historic nature of the building is preserved while also creating new opportunities for recreation, education, and health services.  Ultimately, the goal is to ensure the East Smithfield Neighborhood Center is an updated, accessible, and welcoming community resource for all residents,” said Senator Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee.

“The renovations of the East Smithfield Neighborhood Center will bring back to life a long beloved community resource and gathering place – providing the recreational center long ago envisioned when the building was gifted to the town in 1951,” said Congressman Cicilline. “For too long, the Center’s doors have remained closed, and I cannot wait to join the community to celebrate its reopening as we provide a safe, accessible, welcoming space for all of Smithfield’s residents.”