Facebook officials introduced plans to fully fund a "state-of-the-art" community center in Menlo Park's Belle Haven neighborhood during a community meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 2.
During the Belle Haven Neighborhood Association meeting, officials from the Menlo Park-based tech company introduced a plan to fund the construction of a multi-story community center that would house the library, senior center and youth center, as well as a gym and multipurpose room, said John Tenanes, Facebook's vice president of global facilities and real estate. The Onetta Harris Community Center and Belle Haven youth and senior centers are currently located in a cluster of buildings on Terminal Avenue, while the library is on Ivy Drive.
"I think it's a beautiful idea and proposal and I think it's something that will certainly revitalize this side of Menlo Park," said Rose Bickerstaff, who is part of the neighborhood association's leadership team. "The community has long been underserved."
In April, Menlo Park's draft park and recreation facilities master plan recommended changes such as a new Belle Haven community center. One of the recommendations in the draft is to revitalize the Onetta Harris Community Center and other buildings on the property, including the youth and senior centers. The Onetta Harris center and the Belle Haven Youth Center buildings were recently evaluated to be "at the end of their productive life" and need to be substantially renovated or rebuilt, according to the draft plan.
In June, the Menlo Park City Council approved a $160,000 contract to develop concept designs for a new Belle Haven Library since the current library "is widely regarded as inadequate to meet community needs," according to city staff. The firm, Noll & Tam Architects, will also analyze potential site options and come up with preliminary cost estimates for a new library.
Facebook’s intent is to build a space to cover all of the library's programs, but the city will decide what happens with the existing space, a Facebook spokesperson said.
"We are neighbors and this is one of the most important ways we can help community build a place to bring the community together," according to a prepared statement from Facebook. "We believe this effort will strengthen the social fabric of our neighborhood for decades to come."
Tenanes said Facebook has a sense of the cost of such a project, but that the company would like to gather community feedback before sharing that information. Over the next month, the company will gather input from the city and community on the project's design, said Maya Perkins, strategic initiatives manager at Facebook.
Facebook has not set a timeline for the project, but it could present the offer to the Menlo Park City Council on Tuesday, Oct. 15, Tenanes said. At that point the company will have a more detailed presentation on how it plans to proceed with the project, he said.
In an Oct. 3 email, Menlo Park Mayor Ray Mueller lauded the tech company's proposal.
"Facebook's proposal, to wholly fund the building of a new state of the art community center and library in Belle Haven, represents a significant and impactful investment in the quality of life of Menlo Park residents, and significantly District 1 residents," he said. "It would be insincere for me to pretend it isn't the type of project that fosters appreciable trust from the community in Facebook's long-term commitment to its neighbors and the City of Menlo Park."
Mueller added that the community center plan is not tied to the Willow Village project, Facebook's proposal to build 1.75 million square feet of office space, 1,500 housing units, up to 200,000 square feet of retail space, and a hotel with 200 to 250 rooms on a 60-acre parcel.