Wish List: Council to Continue Exploring Community Center and Parking Garage Projects

A community center and a municipal parking garage have both been on the wish list for city councilors for a number of years.

But if the council wants to move ahead, it might have to pick one of the two major capital projects over the other.

District 6 Councilor Giovanni Recupero recently requested that Ambrosino consider the construction of a parking garage and a community center.

“I am aware that both of these building projects have been desired by the City Council for quite some time,” Ambrosino replied in a letter to the council. “However, I honestly believe that, at this point, the Council will need to make a decision as to which of these buildings has the higher priority. While it is possible that the City could absorb the debt service for one of these buildings over the course of the next 3-5 years within its Capital Plan, it cannot afford both at once.”

Ambrosino noted that he has put a placeholder of $5 million in the city’s capital improvement plan for the past several years, with a parking garage project currently listed in the plans for fiscal year 2026.

“The amount of $5 million is likely on the low side, but it might allow for the downpayment on a modest-sized structure on an existing City owned parcel such as the Chestnut Street parking lot,” stated Ambrosino.

However, if the council prioritized the construction of a community center, Ambrosino said it would make more sense to use the $5 million for that project.

“The cost of a legitimate community center is going to be significant, more in line with major public building construction,” stated the city manager. “The City’s Housing & Community Development Department has surveyed some other facilities, and it appears the cost of a decent sized facility, say 40,000 sq. feet, would likely run at least $500 per sq. foot, which translates to $20 million. This does not include any land acquisition costs, which likely would add several million to the price.”

If the council did want to move forward with a community center project, Ambrosino recommended the creation of a subcommittee to look at potential sites for acquisition and design options.

“Just keep in mind that, in addition to the one-time acquisition and building costs, such a community center building would require yearly operating expenses within the City’s annual budgets,” Ambrosino stated, with housing and community development estimating it would require a commitment of about $1.5 million annually.

“It’s hard to choose which one you would want to have,” said Recupero, who asked that there be further discussion about the issue in a subcommittee on conference. “I’d like to get it all with time … and figure out a way to achieve what this city has needed for a very long time.”

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