Having passed on a $136 million revamp of Rengstorff Park and its community center in 2011, City Council members took a liking to a modest $32 million proposal on Tuesday.
City staff members came up with the plan themselves, and made use of an architect on the city's staff, Fred Fallah. It expands the footprint of the 22,000 square-foot 1964 community center by 7,000 square feet, adding three multi-purpose rooms, a kitchen, an elevator to the basement's social hall and new bathrooms.
The plan would also replace the 1959 aquatics building and pool, and improves the park's pathways and lighting. The general layout of the park is largely unchanged, though parking will expand from 111 to 174 spaces.
In 2011, a consultant came up with four plans to significantly change the park and add an entirely new community center, but council members balked at the cost estimate — ranging from $86.7 million to $139.6 million — and the number of trees that would have to be removed, between 84 and 111.
"I think you, the staff, really understood the community a lot better than an outside consultant," said council member Jac Siegel of the plan, which the entire council appeared to support. "I applaud what you have done. I think you really did listen and create a nice plan. I'm really happy with it."
The plan will now be refined and come back for City Council approval, though funding has yet to be identified. A narrow majority of the council also expressed interest in a cost estimate for a modest parking structure at the park. The revamp of the park could happen little by little as funds are available.
Four residents spoke, and some were concerned about new developments in the park "that shrink useable open space," said resident Paul Donahue.
The city government has been considering the closure of Crisanto Avenue along the park's northern edge to expand the park.
"If grade separation (of the train tracks) does happen, it would be nice to reclaim the street and be able to put in some grass," Donahue said. Council member Ronit Bryant suggested a bike path in place of the street.
Community Center a big focus
"It would be nice to have a building that looks like it was built in 2015 rather than a building built in the 1960s with a 45-year facelift," said council member Mike Kasperzak, noting the current building's "funky" architecture. Council member Ronit Bryant agreed. "It shouldn't be too difficult to make it fit with the child care center and senior center," both of which the city recently built elsewhere in the park.
"Frankly, a lot of the exterior of the building would be the addition and would look very much like a new building," said public works director Mike Fuller.
The cost of the community center upgrade would be $14 million to $17 million, while a new building of such size could cost $32 million, city staff members said. The 2011 proposals put the cost at up to $53 million.
The community center is now reaching 94 percent capacity on Saturdays and 30 percent capacity on Sundays for private rentals, but the city expects an increase in use with the remodel. Assistant community services director Regina Maurantonio noted the rise in popularity of the city's senior center after it was rebuilt recently, with the average number of daily patrons going from 420 to over 600.
"The addition of three new multi-purpose rooms would open up capacity for expanded recreational opportunities such as special-interest classes, summer camps, and meeting space for nonprofit community groups," said a report by the community services department.
Private events such as weddings would see a boost with a catering kitchen built on to the community center's auditorium, which would be expanded from 200 to 256 seats with a new entrance at the rear where a little-used outdoor stage will be removed. City staff said the city's portable stage would suffice for outdoor events. The three new multi-purpose rooms would extend the front of the building towards Rengstorff Avenue, along with some new office space for city staff members and two towers on the front corners of the building.
The parking lot entrance at the community Center would also be moved to align with Stanford Avenue where a new stoplight would be installed.
Mayor John Inks expressed an interest in "trimming costs" even further and asked city staff to look into the added cost of the environmentally friendly LEED Silver rating the city requires for its own buildings.
In response, Siegel said, "I think it is much more critical to make it functional and beautiful than to try to cut a lot of corners and make it cheap. Quality stands out. If you do something good, it stays with us a very long time."