Officials discuss new details of planned recreation center

Work toward a community recreation center continues to progress, the City Council was told during the April 3 study session to present the latest building and grounds schematics.

It was also announced that the city is working with the Gilbert family who is donating the land west of Peart Road south of Kortsen Road. The family had initially set a deadline of this December or the land offer could be withdrawn.

Mayor Craig McFarland asked if the time limit has been dealt with.

James Burke, interim Community Services Department director responded, “Well, not in a fashion that would make our attorney stop and say ‘yes,’ but we have had the conversation with the property owners. They know the situation of where we’re at in the process, how much it’s going to take, and they’ve expressed an interest of working with us to accommodate.”

McFarland said the issue needs to be resolved before planning gets much further along.

“I don’t want to spend a bunch of money, of the city’s money, if in fact they are going to renege on something,” he said.

City Manager Larry Rains responded, “One of the reasons why we’ve staged getting to this point with the schematic design and getting their approval is to ensure that even though the mayor and council have already given us consent to start moving forward, from an expenditure and a contract perspective, on the design work, that ultimately we’re putting ourselves in a better position to ensure that we’ve got appropriate timing and whatnot.”

He continued, “As Mr. Burke has pointed out, we in fact have had some very preliminary dialogue. There’s willingness. We will be working on a document that they ultimately can execute, as well.”

McFarland repeated, “Before we get too far.”

“Yes,” Rains responded.

Turning to the latest schematics, Burke said they are the result of several meetings of the design committee to discuss the building and its design.

“They came in and we did a couple of exercises where we dealt with the site itself and the arrangement of the building, the size of the building – kind of cut and pasted and played with blocks, if you will – and looked at different ways to approach it,” he said. “The designers went away and analyzed that, came back with proposals and went away and came back. And we did that in partnership with the staff and the Boys & Girls Clubs. Matt Lemberg (clubs director) was with us on all those exercises. We did it with the City Manager’s Office and with Community Services’ involvement looking at that. And then, we spent quite a bit of time working with the Gilbert family and showing them all those same exercises and getting their acceptance and their approval of where we’re at today. They have signed an acknowledgement that we’re in compliance with the special warranty deed. We still fully intend for the family to be involved as we take this through final design, as we’ll be bringing it to the council for discussion and review. They’re very excited to see us try to get to the end game and getting the building under construction and being built.”

It was decided that the main building would be angled toward Peart Road.

“In looking at the site and thinking about how we might use it,” Burke said, “the committee and the design team came up with the conclusion that we should put the building to the far northeast of the site and try to have a presence on Peart Road, because that is the major street, not try to dominate it and deal with it like maybe a commercial building would where you’d have the front door out on Peart. We really thought about dropping it into a park site and having you see the edge and see the landscaping, experience the building as you go by it. And that’s why there’s some articulation to the shape and the building is kind of turned sideways to the road so that you won’t see just a big wall with a big building, because the gymnasium will have a big wall. You’ll see different shapes and different sizes and then experience the building in different ways as you approach it.”

There will be a driveway through the center of the property for maintenance and delivery, Burke said, but the main drive will be to the south.

“That’s the drive that has potential,” he continued, “because to the south is a private development parcel that will be developed sometime in the future. We have the potential there to share that driveway with that site, so that could be a very prominent entrance. But initially, it will just be our own driveway. Come to the parking lot. You can see the parking lot is pushed also to the north of the site. You can just see in the lower left-hand side of the slide a single-family resident lot, but there are others that are platted on each side of that, so there will be additional residential houses there. We sited this building as far away from that as we could. That was really in deference to the family. They wanted to make sure that we didn’t encroach on residential uses. If we did a two-story building, the building wouldn’t be imposing right on the resident…so you can see from the lower sketch that we’re 570 feet or more away from that single-family residence.”

The initial landscape plan has lawn around the building and a separate lawn where the aquatics complex will be in the future when money becomes available. To the southwest of that would be a small landscaped area that could be used for festivals or other activities.

The green Y-shaped area at the left of the illustration would be open space.

Councilman Matt Herman asked if that open space could ever be used for special events.

Burke responded, “That’s a great question and one we have kicked around and I believe the answer is yes. Now, there are some conditions on that. I don’t believe we can put a building there. That also taps into the greater community trail plan that you’ve approved, and as that subdivision next door gets built, people can connect to it. That little grass area just south of the parking lot might actually expand into that green space.”

Turning to the layout of the building, Burke said there would be two entrances, one for the Boys & Girls Clubs at the northwest side and one for the general public near the future aquatics area.

Pointing to the building layout schematic, Burke said “The yellow area is the area that’s dedicated to Boys & Girls Clubs uses. The light pink area is the area that’s shared uses between both the city and the Boys & Girls Clubs and then the red area is for the city public recreation programs.

“You can see the entrances there and how they share that big gray area. It’s a shared lobby, it’s a generous lobby and it’ll be a two story lobby, because the second part of this diagram on the left hand side is the upper floor,” he said. “If someone’s coming for an activity in the multipurpose room, which is these two large rooms on the direct south side that spill out onto the aquatics complex area, a lawn initially, you can assemble in the lobby and have grand space where you can do your meeting, greeting and ticketing or whatever might be going on and then go into that multipurpose room. The same if you’re going to a bigger activity in the gymnasium or the youth and teen center that’s right there in the center of the lobby, which we thought really focused our energies on teen activities right in the center of the building, right in the center of the lobby.”

He continued, “The kids care area is right to the left of the main front door. That also has an outdoor space that’s walled and dedicated and shaded, so it’s completely confined and then there are also shared classrooms that you can see that are also on that left wall. The second floor has the walking track around the gymnasium and the exercise area where the equipment will be. The exercise area is about 3,500 square feet. We put it upstairs along with the multipurpose exercise room, which will be the dance room or dedicated program space for activities. That’s where you’ll go for all your organized activities with the city for recreation activities as part of your membership.”

Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons asked if 3,500 square feet is adequate space.

“Yes,” Burke replied, adding, “I think it’s a good compromise size, a good functioning size for this community and the size of this facility.

Certainly, you could build it bigger and then you could spend a lot of money on equipment and always doing replacement of equipment. I’m not sure that we’ve done the analysis that you’ll make that much more money doing it that way. And you could make a smaller, but if you get too small then it’s really not going to be a functional size. We think it’s a good size and the location of it up there (second floor) kind of set by itself works pretty well in our assumptions.”

It was also decided to put all offices on the second floor, Burke said.

“The Boys & Girls Clubs staff and the city staff share common spaces so the work spaces and the copiers and the break room will all be in one area and then the various cubicles and small offices,” he continued. “Put them all on the second floor where they’d be kind of up and a step away from the community and the activity on the first floor where there’s really the meeting and greeting of the customer base and the interaction that’s really important to how this building is going to function. Then, there’s open space looking off that exercise room area or the staff space down into the atrium below, so you can still hear and monitor and see what’s going on.”

Councilwoman Donna McBride asked if the cost factor between general memberships and the Boys & Girls Clubs membership had been considered.

Burke responded, “Absolutely. And we don’t have a definitive answer yet. It’s something we’re looking at and still between the two parties figuring out exactly how that will go. We do see, especially in that teen area, that some partnership might go both ways. I don’t think we have a final resolution on all the nuances of that.”

City Manager Rains added that, “We’ve worked very closely with the Boys & Girls Clubs to get us to this point. And to just build on the response to Councilwoman McBride, we have had some very preliminary dialogue with Mr. Lemberg about beginning to establish some meetings regarding the agreement component that really is going to define the financial pieces and what they’re going to look like. And we’ll certainly be bringing that back to the mayor and council in advance of us getting to the point where construction is taking place.”

Next steps

As Burke explained to the council, “The next steps are to continue and finalize the schematic design, and there’s a whole series of submittals that are defined in the contract that, once we get general approval on this, they will submit some details on how the walls and the roofs and the materials start to come together. It won’t be all the design decisions, but they start to get into the details of how we’re going to build this building.

We’ll do a series of design workshops that will involve going to all the city departments and making sure we do the technical reviews that have to happen, especially with the Building Department and the site plan review and all those. We’ll have the 30, 60 and 100 percent construction drawing preparations to get us to where we’re actually at a permitted set of drawings, have all the city approvals and permits that are required in that process. The goal is to get a guaranteed maximum price from the builder, who is part of this team and will doing the analysis along the way on cost estimating.

We think right now, our best guess, is that it’s going to take six to eight months. Construction could be as long as 14 to 18 months. On all of these schedules, we’re going to work really hard to compress and shave and get down as short as we can possibly get them in the process, because we know the community’s waiting and we really want to see this get completed.”