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Amherst Survival Center buys former eatery, plans expansion
BY Scott Merzbach, Daily Hampshire Gazette, 07/07/2010 – 04:00
AMHERST – Officials at the Amherst Survival Center will slowly transform a former restaurant into the place where they provide free meals and services to local families and individuals in need.
The Survival Center recently closed on a $265,000 deal to purchase the former Roosters restaurant building at 138 Sunderland Road from Marion Leonard, who shuttered the eatery in 2007 after being in business for more than 30 years.
Cheryl Zoll, executive director of the center, said the new site, less than a mile north of its existing location at 1200 N. Pleasant St., will meet the center’s needs after what is expected to be a two- to three-year process to renovate and expand the building.
“We’re hoping to have space that preserves the real community feel … while providing enough to space to be more effective in delivering the services,” Zoll said.
These services for clients include hot meals from noon to 1 p.m. four days a week, free medical clinics, brown bag groceries for families of four once a month, a free store where people can pick up clothes and other supplies, and family events at night.
The need for new space has been spurred by a growing population of those being served, which can be upwards of 200 people a day.
In January, the center announced it was looking to move to a new home by 2015 after Kraus Fitch Architects Inc. issued a report that the current space is no longer sufficient. The Roosters site was identified by a Facilities Planning Committee last fall after about 30 locations were examined.
The property includes the main two-story building, the top floor of which is used as an apartment, and an attached barn. Though the usable space is only about equal to the 3,700 square feet used in the current building, Zoll said plans will include doubling the space.
This would include creating 1,000 to 2,000 square feet of new space in the barn, depending on how it is configured, and new construction that would take place on the south side of the main building.
“We’re planning that very carefully this summer,” Zoll said.
With additional space, Zoll said the center will be better able to collaborate with other agencies, such as Elliot Homeless Services and the Center for Human Development, and to offer new programs, possibly including teaching English as a second language and courses for those who need to get their graduate equivalent diplomas, as well as hosting Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
“We could make it more of a one-stop shop for people,” Zoll said.
There is also sufficient parking at the 1-acre site on Sunderland Road.
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