The roomy spaces, built-in cafeteria, and ready availability of the building at 100-150 Rustcraft Rd. have impressed Dedham department heads during tours over the past week.
Police Chief Michael d’Entremont and Council on Aging Director Laura Leventhal, who both could see their departments move to the facility, said they were optimistic about the nearly 200,000-square-foot space, which could also house Town Hall and much of the Department of Public Works.
D’Entremont called the potential combined facility an “intriguing concept.”
“I believe the location would work for a police facility,” d’Entremont said Thursday. “A police facility would have specific needs which I believe could be incorporated into the overall development of a larger town facility.”
Leventhal saw the facility Wednesday, and said Thursday it had tremendous potential for a senior center.
“We couldn’t ask for more space and I think with some creativity in terms of design, we could have light and it could be open and airy and welcoming and a lot could be done,” Leventhal said.
Dedham’s police facility at 600 High St., built around 1960, is inadequate for the police department, according to d’Entremont. The Building, Planning, and Construction Committee has been looking at building a facility at a former St. Mary of the Assumption church parking lot.
As for a senior center, the Council on Aging currently uses a 2,400-square-foot space on Washington Street with no bathroom or running water and has been looking to build a senior center for decades.
At a recent Special Town Meeting, members voted to maintain a Senior Center Site Committee established in November rather than pursue plans for a facility at the Endicott Estate on East Street.
The site committee is due to report on an ideal location at annual Town Meeting in May.
Leventhal said she was disappointed with this week's vote at Special Town Meeting, because she prefers the Endicott plan. But she said there would be advantages to making the senior center a part of Town Hall.
“We move forward and we work with what’s available,” Leventhal said.
Selectmen Chairman Carmen Dello Iacono led a tour through the Rustcraft building Wednesday for many department heads.
“Please go through when we walk through open minded and with a hint of excitement, I hope, because that’s the way it’s been with me every time I’ve walked through here,” Dello Iacono said.
There are 158,000 square feet on the first floor and 35,000 square feet on the second floor, according to Town Administrator William Keegan. Keegan and Dello Iacono led the group through large spaces that they said could be divided among current departments.
At the edges of most of the spaces were offices with large glass windows.
“As you can see, this is wide open space and you can create any space you want,” Keegan said, adding that final decisions about which department would go where in the building had not been determined.
Some paint peeled on the walls and a few ceiling tiles were missing, but Dello Iacono said the wiring and sprinkler systems still worked. The building, constructed in 1954, had been vacant for nine years, he said. It was formerly owned by Rust Craft Greeting Cards Inc.
The building was acquired by auction by the Davis Cos. in February, and selectmen have been working with that company to see whether a lease or sale agreement can be reached. Dello Iacono and Keegan said they would require any remediation or asbestos removal to be taken care of by Davis if the town were to use the building.
In the rear of the first floor, Dello Iacono presented what he considered to be the best area for a senior center. It was about 16,000 square feet, which is the size the Senior Center Site Committee determined would be ideal, and it has a separate entrance.
Leventhal thought that space had potential, but Russell Poole, a member of the Council on Aging and the Senior Center Site Committee, was more hesitant.
He said that the low ceiling and the lack of windows gave the space a closed feeling.
“This is institutional; this is office,” Poole said. “In my opinion, it doesn’t work.”
He added that the Red Cross, which occupies the other side of the building, took down parts of the low ceiling and was able to open up sections of the building, which is what Poole would like to see.
Selectmen will continue to discuss the facility at their meeting Thursday evening. They hope to have a proposal before the town by November’s Special Town Meeting.