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Former New Richmond Middle School transforms... Work begins on the Community Commons

The Community Commons, a community-type center that will be located in the former New Richmond Middle School at 421 S. Green Ave., will house several community groups, including New Richmond Community Education, Five Loaves Food and Clothing Shelter, VFW, Head Start, Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, New Richmond Area Community Foundation, among others.

The building is owned by the New Richmond School District and space is being leased to the various groups. Community Education and its director, Cheryl Emerson, will be charged with the building's management.

"The building will be officially turned over on July 1," Emerson said. "But we already have some stakeholders doing prep work."

The Veterans of Foreign Wars has already moved in and held a meeting in their new space, Emerson said.

Five Loaves Food and Clothing Shelter was one of the first groups to get in the building, Emerson said.

"They're ripping up carpeting in the choir room and replacing it with new carpeting," she said. "They've also started working in the band room."

The group plans to level the floor of the band room, which is currently furnished with a sunken floor and concrete risers.

Head Start started moving its equipment to the new building on Monday, June 27.

"They don't have classes in the summer and they have a lot of stuff to move over so they're starting on that," Emerson said.

Toward the end of July the group will erect a fence and move its playground equipment to the area behind the former sixth grade wing, she said.

WITC has begun painting and cleaning their classrooms and will eventually be installing loads of technology to ready the rooms for fall classes.

There are no Community Education classes at the Community Commons this summer, but a few cooking and nutrition classes have been slated for the fall.

"This will give us some time to reorganize, clean and reconfigure," Emerson said.

Fitness flooring will be installed in the gymnasium's mezzanine area, which will host gymnastics, tumbling and adult fitness classes in the future, Emerson said.

Through a generous grant from the Otto Bremer Foundation, Emerson bought a large two-door freezer for community use, along with some basic furniture pieces for the building.

The custodians are working to clean the second and third floors of the building, which will be used for long-term storage.

"We're still getting some of the logistical things figured out," Emerson said. "Once that happens we'll get everyone in there all snug and cozy."

The plan is to host an open house sometime in November, she said.

"Everyone is very excited about this project," she said. "After three years of planning, I think we're all still a little shell shocked that it's actually happening."

Jackie Grumish
Jackie Grumish has been a reporter with the New Richmond News since 2008. She holds degrees in journalism and fine art from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill. Before coming to New Richmond, Jackie worked as the city government reporter at a daily newspaper in Aberdeen, S.D. 
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