Thursday April 26, 2018
Plans for a new library/city hall building on Market Street have once again been “re(IMAGINED),” this time, to include an exclusive space for South Burlington’s senior population. Seniors were invited to a presentation of the latest addition on April 18.
The project, labeled SoBu Spaces 2020, is touted as a celebrated environment for people to gather, learn, and recreate. The proposed site is located on over a half acre of land east of the Allard Square senior housing building and south of the Rick Marcotte Central School. The city’s plans call for the building to abut a new road which will be built to lead to the school. The design team is led by Wiemann Lamphere Architects, a Colchester firm, in partnership with Humphries Poli, a Colorado firm which specializes in civic buildings.
The city hosted a handful of community workshops in January and March for public input, and the design team revealed a recommended building design concept on March 13. Shortly after the recommendation, the concept morphed to reflect a new senior center. A full recommendation will go to the city council on May 7.
A re(IMAGINED) Senior Center
In response to public feedback, a senior center will replace an area initially marked as a “multi-purpose” room on the northwest end of the first floor of the three-story proposed civic center.
Pitched as more flexible for social gatherings and scheduled programs, the city says the senior center will host a variety of program opportunities ranging from health and wellness programs like tai-chi and living strong strength training as well as arts and leisure classes like writer workshops, water colors, and acrylics. Other potential activities being explored include, but are not limited to, trivia, a sewing circle, gardening, tax assistance, cooking classes, EEE classes, and more.
Additionally, in this model, seniors will have access to staging and state-of-the-art projection and sound systems for special events, lectures, and performances. An attached caterer’s kitchen planned with a pass-through to the program space opens the doors for daily meals for up to 80 people, the city reports in a posting on their website.
Steve Roy, vice president of Weinmann Lamphere Architects, who led the April 18 presentation, confirmed that the new center would be larger than the current city hall first floor conference room, with higher ceilings. There will also be designated storage space and a living room area for seating and socializing; all these spaces combined with the kitchen make it well over 1,000 sq. ft. larger than today’s program space.
“The Recreation and Parks Department is really excited to broaden the programs offered to our community, most specifically our senior population,” Holly Rees, interim director of the Recreation and Parks Department, attested. “This is a long-awaited project that we are eager to see come to fruition. It is wonderful to hear so many voices sharing their vision and eager to create this community.”
In planning the space, Rees was asked to compile a list of current programming offerings and realistic needs,
“Steve has taken into account where we are now and where we hope to be for future programming, and the fit-ups seem to represent that. While I will always advocate for more space, this seems conducive to what we’ve talked about,” she said.
Open hours are projected to be roughly from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. with some additional scheduled evening and weekend programs.
Furthermore, the senior center will be close to the auditorium, which will be in the center of the first floor and accommodate up to about 100 people. The stage will have flexibility to move seating around with ease.
“We’ve worked on right sizing of the space, taking into account the proximity of the auditorium to the Senior Center,” Project Director Ilona Blanchard said. “Since auditoriums are generally underutilized during the day, this gave us an opportunity to plan to meet the bulk of the program needs in the Senior Center and have the auditorium meet those more sporadic larger floor and audience-style events.”
In terms of orientation, entrance into the building from Market Street will bring patrons to a lobby area with an information desk, seating, and the city clerk’s office. According to the renderings, traveling further down the hall toward the end of the building brings you to the proposed senior center. There is another entrance on the north side of the building closest to the senior center. The city is still vetting parking options that will answer more specific questions regarding accessibility.
Farthest from the senior center in the southeast end of the first floor is the entrance into the “community library living room” and the children’s library.
City meetings, which have historically affected availability of recreation programming, are planned to occur on the third floor of the proposed building, which would eliminate scheduling conflicts. The second floor would accommodate the adult collection as well as young adult literature.
“This is not a new idea,” chimed Jennifer Kochman, chair of the Recreation and Parks Committee.
“The original City Center Task Force was charged with deciding which buildings would be constructed in City Center and how would they be designed. The Recreation and Park Committee and the Recreation and Parks Department submitted a wish list of facility amenities to be included in the Recreation and Parks Recreation facility. That task force recommended that library, municipal offices, and Recreation and Parks department facilities should all be included in City Center, and that they should all be designed to be in one building.”
She added: “It is important to note that at this time, the Recreation and Parks department has no program space and very limited indoor recreation space. This inclusion of Recreation and Parks space in the City Center complex begins to address the long-standing needs of the department.”
Funding and Next Steps
Thirty percent of the library and 10 percent of city hall project costs are eligible for Tax Increment Financing (TIF). Tax Increment Financing is a local economic development tool used to leverage new property taxes generated by specific projects in a specified area or district.
The city also established an annual contribution to reserve funds to finance this project through the Capital Improvement Program (CIP).
“The designers are working with a budget of just over $300 per square foot for public spaces in the building,” explained Blanchard.
“Our senior program specialist is currently a part-time position with flexibility to grow as our space allows,” added Rees, in response to the Recreation and Parks budgeting aspect.
“Additional staff hours to run robust programs in the Recreation and Parks Department space will be budgeted for in advance and offset by generated revenue.”
According to the city, the project team will continue to collect ideas to develop the design, calculate cost estimates, and offer updates on the city website and to city council. A Purpose and Needs statement has been presented to the planning commission, which has scheduled to take action at its next meeting; it has already been adopted by the library board of trustees. A council approval in May would green-light the permitting process, and a bond vote would come before residents in November.
“I would hope that you would get your act all together,” resident Wes Daum addressed to city personnel. “Show us the building, the parking lot, and what you’re going to do with this building before you ask us to vote on a bond issue in November.”
“We’re very deeply into the planning process,” City Manager Kevin Dorn responded. “We absolutely understand the need for parking. We’re still working with the school district, hopefully to acquire an easement or ownership of a small strip of land to make this optimal.”
Regarding the voting process, he added: “We need to be alerting the public throughout the summer beginning in June about the design and programming features. A lot of people are doing early voting. We don’t look at the November date. The public needs to have all their questions answered by mid-September.”
The goal for construction completion is April 2020 if the bond is approved by voters.
SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent