On June 14, we residents of Union will vote on the future of the Thompson Community Center. Our options are, essentially, to keep the building in town hands, for the benefit of the town, to sell the building to a 3rd party - either for senior housing, or some other purpose - or to demolish it.
As the board chair of the Thompson Memorial Association - the organization that has been managing the building since its previous operators left without notice in December 2021 - I’ve learned just about everything there is to know about the building, and the community’s interest in it. I have fielded hundreds of phone calls and emails over the last six months, from folks across Midcoast and as far away as New Jersey, inquiring about the building and curious to understand the possibilities this space offers. I have seen young families come and using the space for sports in winter, playing basketball before school. I have seen older residents use the space for walking and playing cards. I have seen folks from all walks of life shop in our thrift store, which helps provide clothing and other household items to families who cannot easily travel to the coast. We have local businesses and craftsmen renting space, and we’d surely have more if not for the unclear future of the building. Folks want this space to be utilized, there is more interest in the building than ever.
Folks wanting to have this space for community use and business incubation is no surprise if you look back on the community meeting notes from 2019. Noticeably absent is discussion around demolition of the building… it wasn’t seriously discussed because it’s not a viable option. There was no logic to voting to finance the demolition of the building, effectively paying money to lose our biggest asset, and there’s no logic to it now. It would likely cost the same to demolish the building as it would to bring it up to code and bring in the dozens -- if not hundreds -- of folks, businesses and organizations who want to use this space.
If I’ve learned anything living in Union the past several years, it is that a shared sense of community and history is what ties us together. Whether you grew up here or just moved here, we all care about our town and want it to be a great place to live and possess the services families and resident’s desire. The simple fact is the building has been neglected and ignored for too long, but we’ve got it back on the right track. The building looks better than it has in over a decade. It’s time to pull up our sleeves and do what should have been done DECADES ago, create an environment where with strong leadership and oversight, the TCC can be financially viable and a tremendous community asset to residents.
The question at hand is ultimately, what would you rather have, a vacant lot, or a community center and business hub? It’ll cost about the same.
I’ve learned a lot about this building over the past six months and I’ve thought about this issue daily. For the reasons I’ve stated above, I will be voting for Option1 on Article 5 to retain the building by the town, for the town. This may be our last chance to get this right… if we sell the building or demolish it, our agency over this landmark will be gone, probably forever. It’s up to us to carry on Dr. Thompson’s legacy and make this building what it was meant to be, a community space for residents to enjoy and to celebrate our shared history and fellowship.
Paul Raudonat is chair of the Thompson Memorial Association and lives in Union