To cover the gap, the council has approved the use of $1 million — to be appropriated from the Library Systems Improvement Fund — for the cost of interim services during the construction period. This would cover the continuation of key services now offered by the senior center, Onetta Harris Community Center, and the Belle Haven Youth Center.
The council approved the funding in a 4-0 vote at its Feb. 25 meeting. Council member Ray Mueller was absent.
The council accepted Facebook's offer for the community center project on Jan. 28. The center will be located on the site of the current facilities at 100 Terminal Ave., and groundbreaking is expected in early 2021.
During construction, some services will be either suspended or offered at a reduced level.
According to a city staff report, the following temporary changes will take effect during construction:
• Operations at the Belle Haven Pool, drop-in fitness classes at the Onetta Harris Community Center, and the senior community reading rooms will be suspended.
• The senior center's recreation classes, special events, and game room will be offered at a reduced level.
Meanwhile, the Belle Haven Youth Center's after-school care and summer camp; the Kelly Field sports field group rentals; the Onetta Harris Community Center's Second Harvest Program; and the senior center's meals, transportation, health and counseling programs will all be offered at the same level.
Most services will be offered at alternative venues during construction, to be decided by the city at a later date.
The proposed new center has been billed by Facebook as a "Multi-generational Community Center and Library." It would house a new senior center, youth center and library, as well as a gym and multipurpose room, according to a letter addressed to the City Council in December 2019 from John Tenanes, Facebook's vice president of global facilities and real estate.
The facility, being designed by architectural firm Hart Howerton, would also include renovations to some amenities near the pools and improved pedestrian access and vehicle circulation at the site.
Seniors express concerns
At the City Council meeting, at least two dozen community members associated with the senior center were present, and many spoke of how much they value the current senior center, emphasizing that they would like to see it either maintained or improved.
In a letter sent to the council and signed by 45 community members, representatives from the senior center wrote: "The Community and seniors think Facebook and the City would do us a favor if they leave the buildings the way they stand now. The community and seniors know that this is a dream that will not come true for us. Facebook and the City will never stop the new construction plans. The most important thing for the seniors is to be one hundred percent sure that we will be coming back to the new building as low-income seniors. In the new building, seniors need to have all the benefits and services we have at the present."
During the council's discussion, council member Catherine Carlton addressed the letter directly, saying that the council intends to create an improved senior center for the community.
"We're trying to provide better facilities for people in the long-term," she said. "We're also very worried about making sure that we provide as many services as possible in the same way ... to not impact people's lives unnecessarily in the process of providing something that hopefully will be really beautiful and provide fantastic services for decades to come."
This story contains 638 words.
Stories older than 90 days are available only to subscribing members. Please help sustain quality local journalism by becoming a subscribing member today.
If you are already a subscriber, please log in so you can continue to enjoy unlimited access to stories and archives. Subscriptions start at $5 per month and may be cancelled at any time.