Trumbull community center committee chooses architect

A rendering of Wilton's Comstock Community Center produced by Quisenberry Arcari Architects.
A rendering of Wilton's Comstock Community Center produced by Quisenberry Arcari Architects.

The idea of a Trumbull Community Center — an intergenerational building to be used by all town residents, seniors and teenagers alike — moved an inch forward towards becoming a reality this week after the town’s building committee voted unanimously to select a Farmington-based architectural firm to design the structure.

After hearing hour-long presentations from four different architects last week, the Trumbull Community Center Study and Building Committee invited Quisenberry Arcari Architects back to town for a second interview Monday, June 27.  

“The firm was unanimously selected across by both sides of the aisle,”  Joe Pifko, the committee's co-chairman, told The Times Tuesday.

“Our committee and the Legislation and Administration Committee were really impressed with the quality of all four firms, but Quisenberry Arcari stood out to us because of their history in building community centers,” he added. “This is what they specialize in, whether it’s building them from scratch or remodeling them, and they have a long history — and an outstanding reputation — in working intensely with the communities they build in.”

Before any money is spent on a contract, Trumbull Town Council will hear from the firm’s principal partner Tom Arcari at its meeting Thursday, July 7.

Pifko said he expects there to be a council vote to determine if the town will retain the firm going forward. If approved, the town will negotiate Quisenberry Arcari Architects’ contract and the firm will begin to set up public meetings to hear ideas from Trumbull residents.

“They’re very involved; they want to meet with the people of our town,” said Pifko about the firm’s anxiousness to get started.

“They don’t want to just build a great building here, they want to understand the community and develop something that will meet its needs,” he added.

When determining which firm to pass along to the Town Council, the committee looked at references for all four architects and determined that Quisenberry Arcari Architects had a resume too good to pass up.

Pifko said that the firm has built more than 20 community centers in Connecticut, ranging from Wilton and Darien in Fairfield County to towns across the state such as Groton, Glastonbury, Southington and Middletown.

“I visited the center they built in Glastonbury and saw a building that had a lot of usage — a center that was very busy and very comfortable,” the committee co-chair said. “Glastonbury mirrors Trumbull in a lot of ways so that was definitely something that stuck in my mind during the interviews.”

Site flexibility

In addition to the firm’s building background, the committee walked away impressed by Arcari’s analysis of two proposed sites — the Long Hill Administration building and the Trumbull Nature and Arts Center — following the initial interview Thursday, June 23.  

“We gave all four firms those two sites as examples to look at and I think they came in with a very fresh eye, recognizing the benefits and challenges of each location,” Pifko said.

He stressed that by no means were those two proposed sites the final locations where the center could be built — something that Arcari and his associates welcomed with open arms.

“Part of the deal we had with them and the three others who presented was to show us anything we might be overlooking and to be flexible in the approach,” Pifko explained. “I think they really did that nicely and we saw ourselves being able to work with them on the process of finding the right site for this building.”

Sky rockets in flight

Perhaps most important — more than the references and the site flexibility — were the results that the firm has seen from each community center it has built.

“Every town we talked to said that the participation in the building skyrocketed,” Pifko said. “In Plainville, participation increased 200% in the first year...

“People come to the centers they build,” Pifko added. “And that’s the goal we have here: we want to create something that will attract people and something that they will use for years to come.”

In addition to the results, the committee enjoyed Arcari’s passion for building structures similar to the one that Trumbull seeks.

“He knows his stuff,” Pifko said. “He affirmed a lot of our ideas and he has a really good eye for everything that’s part of the building.”

Specifically, the co-chair referenced the architect’s emphasis about storage space.

“It’s one thing a lot of centers miss,” Pifko said. “It sounds silly but it’s very practical: you need to be able to use rooms at all times; you can’t have furniture that should be in closets somewhere taking up meeting space…

“Form follows function,” he added. “That’s a founding philosophy in architecture and his whole presentation delivered that message again and again and that made left us feeling very confident.”