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January 22, 2003

Corliss hopes center links clients, community

From: East Bay Newspapers, RI - 22 Jan 2003

By Laurie Faille

WARREN - The Corliss Institute hopes its newly constructed recreation center on Nobert Street unites the community-at-large with the deaf community it serves.

The prefabricated structure, which went up in December, was built by Resun Leasing, Inc., of New Britain, Conn., to resemble the old bakery building that once stood on the spot. Besides an employee office, the building features a large meeting space that the center’s executive director, Mary Ellen Breen, would like to open to the community

In June 2000, the Corliss Center purchased the 41,170 square-foot Nobert Street property that included the former Nadeau’s Bakery, a house, and some land for $270,000. However, because the bakery building also sat on a sliver of land owned by an abutter, Corliss decided to have the vacant bakery demolished and construct a new building.

The new center arrived at the site on Tuesday, Dec. 10, and was erected about seven feet east of the former blueprint. The project cost $178,000, and was paid for with a $120,000 Champlain Foundation Grant, a $30,000 Rhode Island Foundation grant. The Corliss Institute board was responsible for the remaining $20,000.

Corliss worked closely with the historic commission to make the new building resemble the old bakery, Ms. Breen said. For example, it contains two large windows on both sides of the entrance like the ones that the baker in the original building was said to display meat pies.

The new building is nearly completed and is expected to be open by March. Except for a small office in the rear and a restroom, the center is a basically an open room with a small alcove containing a sink, counters and cabinets.

Ms. Breen said that she has no definite plans yet for the space, but she has some ideas. She hopes to use the space as an employment resource center for the deaf who are served by Corliss, and to hold sign language classes for the public. She also wants to open the center up to community groups as well as the arts and antiques folks.

The town is also welcome to use the building, Ms. Breen said. Sharing the space will help build a relationship between residents and the institute’s deaf clients.

If the new building is opened to the community, Ms. Breen said center would probably charge groups only a modest fee to cover the cost of heat and electricity.

Because the Corliss Institute owns some land near the cluster of buildings on Main Street, Ms. Breen wants to explore the possibility of opening a small farmers’ market. There, she said, the deaf community would raise the crops, and, with assistance, sell them nearby.

She is pitching her ideas to the Corliss Board on Wednesday, Jan. 22. After that, she hopes to meet town officials in mid- February.

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