New life in works for ‘Old City Hall’

Agencies plan to turn historic building into Community Impact Center to benefit area residents

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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 centralized location where several non-profit agencies can offer services and assistance to local residents.

The Connected Community Schools Initiative is spearheading a centralized community resource hub to connect Rome citizens with services that address many unmet resource needs, which leads to health disparities among vulnerable populations. The Community Impact Center will hub several non-profit agencies and community resources in a single location.  

The roughly 18,000-square-foot building at 207 N. James St. was home to city government for more than 80 years.

“From the day we started this project, it was our sincerest hope that the building would serve as a municipal beacon in a reimagined downtown Rome,” said Architect Matt Varughese. “We are ecstatic to enter into a relationship with such a creative and inspired group.” 

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. 

Third Ward Councilor Kimberly Rogers commended the Connected Community Schools Initiative for their dedication to local families.

“I applaud these agencies for their visionary approach to a new program that will benefit countless families in our community,” Rogers said. “It is only fitting that a building so rich in history be utilized for a program that will have such a significant impact for many years to come.”  

The vision of the program is that every struggle a student, individual or family experiences, will be met at one location and for resources not located within the hub, there will be a well-coordinated effort to access those resources before one leaves the hub.

“Forging these local partnerships will allow the entire community to be more successful, productive and healthy,” said Roys.

About CNYHHN and RAE: In 2017, Rome Alliance for Education (RAE) was formed as an independent non-profit organization to manage the Community School development for the Rome City School District.

In early 2018, RAE officially joined forces with CNYHHN, understanding the additional resources its contracted partners could bring to the initiative. The school-based support system called Link, soon became a direct pipeline for students and families in need to access primary care and mental health services through care coordination. CNYHHN is a Care Management agency that serves more than 10 counties that spearheads the Connected Community Schools Program in collaboration with RAE.

Many deadlines for occupancy for the Old City Building have come and gone over the past several year. The Common Council extended the deadline multiple times since the city agreed to sell the historic site nearly a decade ago. YES Development paid the city $25,000 for the building with an original deadline for rehabilitation and occupany at the end of 2014.

YES had planned to turn the former seat of city government into a first floor office space and a group of upstairs apartments. At one time, one of the upstairs apartments was to be occupied by Rome City School District Superintendent Peter C. Blake to satisfy a condition that the superintendent reside in the district. Space at the building has been occupied by Broasters Coffee Co.

Built in 1894, the building sits just south of Veterans Memorial Park on the west side of James Street.

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