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April 17th, 2013

Council getting serious about Community Center expansion

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oncepts have been around for years, but next month the Village Council will get serious about planning for expansion of the Key Biscayne Community Center.
At a Tuesday, April 8, meeting, Village Council member Michael Kelly called for a discussion of Key Biscayne Community Center expansion options, noting the Village has $1.5 million set aside for the project, and everyone from seniors to gym rats feels the building is overcrowded.
“Right now, our seniors are being crowded into a small area. The gym is claustrophobic. Let’s stop sitting on a million and a half dollars and get the physical space,” he said.
Local leaders suggested they might look to move forward quickly with a build-out, and then use survey data to decide how to program the added space. The Council asked Village Manager John Gilbert to give a full report on the options at its Tuesday, May 13, meeting.
Kelly said the issue is a pressing need, and he doesn’t want it to get lost in the shuffle.
“The Community Center needs to be expanded. As we predicted at the time it was built, it isn’t big enough,” he said, adding plans are on file and funding is available from a voluntary covenant linked to the Oceana condominium development, and he doesn’t want the project to languish.
“If we don’t keep pushing, it doesn’t happen.”
Gilbert confirmed Oceana developer Consultatio Key Biscayne LLC has already conveyed $1.5 million to the Village earmarked for Community Center expansion, and drawings were created five or six years ago to add 4,500 square feet to the building’s second floor.
The Manager added there were also plans drafted to temporarily expand the building’s first floor by enclosing part of the pool deck and using partitions to create spaces to address current needs.
Gilbert agreed with Kelly’s assessment of the situation – “I think there is a need, and I think the money is there for us to do this,” he said – and asked the Council for direction, noting in response to questions from Kelly, “We could move forward with this very quickly.”
Council members ultimately asked Gilbert to make a full report May 13, including presenting the existing designs, providing updated cost figures and timeframes, and making sure the current plan maximizes the potential for build-out.
Council member Ed London said the latter is key: “We should maximize it – not do it piecemeal. It costs a lot of money construction-wise when you start adding pieces,” London said. “Plus, it inconveniences people; it’s messy. I want to see it maximized.”
Local leaders agreed on that point unanimously, and also supported the idea of moving forward in general. Council member Mayra Pena Lindsay did bring up one concern: how to make sure the space the Council adds is programmed in a way that truly meets the community’s needs.
Pena Lindsay said several years ago the Council put the project involving the pool deck on hold in favor of planning a “more thoughtful, comprehensive expansion.”
Now, she noted, a recreation needs assessment survey is in the works, and she would like to see that move forward before decisions are made about the expansion.
But Kelly and others argued the build-out itself can go forward before programming decisions are made. “That’s confusing programming and physical space,” he said. “This is merely finishing the space. After that, have at it with the needs assessment and deciding how to use the space. The processes can occur simultaneously.”
Pena Lindsay said she’ll look to make sure that happens: “I just don’t want one to happen without the other,” she remarked.
Mayor Frank Caplan agreed with Kelly. “The envelope expansion is defined. That’s done,” he said. “Programming is what’s left to be done.”
Parks and Recreation Director Todd Hofferberth also confirmed there is a very specific shell for the second floor expansion, so the programming can come later.
With that in mind, Council members agreed to move forward with aggressively planning for the expansion, and Caplan suggested the only real sticking point construction-wise will be deciding whether to also move forward with the temporary project on the building’s first floor.
“The only asterisk is the expansion into the pool deck, because you’re removing an amenity,” he said; local leaders agreed they’ll also discuss the merits of that option.

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