Representatives of the Connecticut Make A Wish Foundation are looking for a location to establish a “Wish House,” and the Country Club of Woodbridge property caught their eye. They explained in broad outlines their vision at a presentation March 27 at a Board of Selectmen meeting. “We wanted to find out whether this sounds like a good idea,” said Pam Keough, president and CEO in a conversation after the meeting. The foundation is a not-for-profit, and they did not want to spend money on a feasibility study to find out that the town did not think this was a good fit.
Making the presentation alongside Keogh was board member Mark Haversat, architect Joe Sepot and development consultant Jennifer Aniskovich. The Wish House would be their office building, they said. However, it is also the place where they invite families and children who were referred to them. The Make A Wish Foundation grants special wishes to children with life-threatening diseases. When children are referred to them, the first step is to figure out what their special wish will be.
Many children travel with their families to Disney World, but their group just recently installed a mini-Fenway Park in the backyard of an avid baseball fan. For another little girl, they installed an outdoor playscape.
They are looking for an office building that would attract children, “that is magical,” as Keough said. The New Jersey Make a Wish, for instance, meets in a Disney-inspired castle. That may be a bit over-the-top, Haversat agreed, saying “we want to make it our own”. The property is visible from the Merritt Parkway, which they consider a plus, and it has a lot of green space.
The basic idea would be to purchase up to 15 acres along Woodfield Road, including the derelict clubhouse. Depending on how the negotiations go, they might be willing to demolish the old club house, and build a new office building, possibly 18,000 to 30,000 square feet, she said. She was also interested in purchasing the overflow parking across the street from the clubhouse, again for overflow parking.
“Woodbridge is a nice place for us to be,” she said. Currently, their offices are in Trumbull, tucked away behind another building.
First Selectman Ellen Scalettar said she had a very positive reaction when she first heard about the idea. She thought it was a very worthwhile and important use for a small part of the 150-acre property. Given that this organization is not-for-profit, the income for the town would be limited to the sales price.
Some selectmen were cautious. Tony Anastasio said his biggest concern is the area they are talking about, namely the main entrance to the property. That may affect the use of the rest of the property, he said. Maria Kayne felt they would be “giving away the best part”. Beth Heller and Joe Dey were looking for more information to support the idea. “We don’t even have a long-term plan for that property,” Dey said. “There’s got to be a number attached to it.”
By Bettina Thiel – Woodbridge Town News Correspondent