D-Day is approaching fast for Jack Allen House. The building on Durham St has served many community groups well, but it is time to move on.
A large tree on the property has already been felled and the tenants of the house, named after a local borough councillor, are preparing to move to a more modern and open premises at the local RSA, which should be move-in ready by the end of this month.
Contact Incorporated has been leasing Jack Allen House from its owners, Horowhenua District Council, since 1989.
"Prior to that we were on Oxford St," says Eleanor Gully, chair of Jack Allen House.
That building was called Te Whare Mahana/House of Warmth, a name Eleanor would like to use again in some way at the new facilities.
Contact Inc (not the power company) and the many groups they assist had grown out of the Oxford building by 1989, when the council offered the use of what is now known as Jack Allen House. The then Levin Borough Council bought the building from J L Stewart in 1982. The Stewarts had owned the house since 1969.
Council meeting minutes from 20 March 1989 record the decision that the "New Community Centre at 21 Durham Street be named The Jack Allen Community Centre in recognition of the service (42 years) to Levin Borough Council, Horowhenua Electric Power Board and the Palmerston North Hospital Board, given by Cr A J N Allen over the years."
Contact Incorporated was formed in 1979 to serve the people of Levin. Initially that meant putting social workers into the community, then they began working with other groups and, among others, helped Citizens Advice raise money. Around 12 tenants use the building at the moment and many more use Jack Allen House as a meeting place.
Jack Allen House is an old building, with a number of add-ons that are very cold in winter.
"It is a rabbit warren that doesn't promote interaction," says Eleanor. "It is no longer fit for purpose. In the back rooms you do not need a fridge to keep the milk cold in winter. It takes all day to warm, not heat, a room in winter."
The property Jack Allen House sits on has been sold to Cambridge Street Medical Centre, which needs more space for more services than their current building can accommodate.
Sadly no one wants the old Jack Allen House, which will be demolished, after anything reusable, such as doors and windows have been removed. A call for tenders to remove the house has not generated a response. The building must be gone by May 1.
The new and much more modern community hub facilities at the RSA, with its own entrance, is set-up to promote interaction between the user groups. "There is no reason to fear those who attend AA meetings will wander into the licensed RSA premises," says Eleanor, who says there is a pub across the road from Jack Allen House. Any connecting doors between the hub and the RSA will be permanently locked.
The new community hub has a lot the current building lacks, such as an accessibility ramp, a reception area, a toilet for the disabled, plenty of parking and bookable spaces, plus plenty of room to mix and mingle.
"Everyone is happy with the relocation to the RSA, including the various AA groups. Only one tenant has chosen to go elsewhere and others have joined up," says Eleanor.
"As soon as we knew the building was up for sale in October last year we organised meetings with tenants and users to discuss what they wanted in the new premises," says HDC's community development adviser Helen Hayes. "We looked at nine different buildings before we settled on the RSA."
The RSA a number of years ago built an extension to its premises, which it no longer needs. The new community hub moves into an available space and helps secure sustainability for the RSA by renting the space off them. The rent will not increase for community hub tenants in the next three years, after which there will be small increases.
Jack Allen House sits on lot 43 and 44 deposited plan 1734 of the Wellington Land Registration District. Land transfer and registry records show the following changes in ownership:
While the name of the owner from 1908 is not legible, it is much longer than Jack Allen. Mary Ann Young bought the house in 1912 and in 1913 it is jointly owned by her and John Frederick Young. Lot 44 is then sold to Archie Gordon Donald in 1920. He bought lot 43 in 1928.
In 1946 both lots were acquired by George Duncan Reid Cameron, who sold to Edward and Alexandrina Cromwell in 1951. They sold both lots to James Lockie Stewart and Kathleen Mary Stewart in 1969, who sold to Levin Borough Council in 1982, who leased it to Contact Inc from 1989.