The Day – New London revises community center plans to stay within $30m budget

New London — The city has redesigned its community recreation center to stay within its $30 million budget and adapt to changing market conditions.

The building’s footprint is smaller, and due to skyrocketing steel costs, the designers opted for a brick and concrete structure rather than a steel curtain design.

Felix Reyes, director of the city’s Office of Development and Planning, presented the changes for the first time publicly during Monday’s city council meeting. He is part of a special working group that meets regularly with the project’s design and construction teams.

Reyes said the changes are a natural part of an evolution of the project as it moved from the concept phase to the design phase and comes amid volatile market conditions. The reduced structure does not sacrifice any community needs, he said.

“We really have to figure out what we can design and what we can build,” Reyes said. “We can design the Taj Mahal…but are we designing what we can afford and designing what the market can supply in terms of materials?”

The center is being designed by architectural firm Silver/Petrucelli + Associates under the direction of construction manager Downes Construction Co. Management firm Brailsford & Dunlavey is overseeing the project.

The community center will be located on part of two city-owned parcels totaling nearly 7 acres on the Fort Trumbull Peninsula — parcels 3B and 3C.

Plans call for the center to be located on a plot and separated from a 100-space car park by an existing roadway. This is a change from the initial concept plans which would have altered the route of the roadway to create a new entrance to the property. Keeping the road where it is now saves travel costs for utilities that already follow the roadway, Reyes said.

What was a 62,000 square foot two story building is now a 58,000 square foot building.

The downsizing was accomplished by downsizing three multi-purpose rooms, tightening hallways, and slightly downsizing locker rooms, fitness rooms, office spaces and the gymnasium, documents associated with the project. show.

Landscaping is not included in the $30 million budget.

The total project budget of $30 million included fixed construction costs of approximately $22 million, leaving $8 million for soft costs and a contingency fund. Current true cost estimates put the price closer to $26 million. The goal, Reyes said, is to achieve a maximum guaranteed price of $25 million for construction costs.

The state contributed an additional $1.2 million to the project for site works and environmental remediation through a brownfields remediation program. This money is in addition to the $30 million approved by City Council.

The community recreation center will still have a two-court gymnasium, eight-lane pool, indoor track, workout and game rooms, and a wing of the building dedicated to the headquarters of the city’s recreation department and its programs. associates. This wing will include a community lounge, classrooms for the early childhood program, a teaching kitchen and other amenities.

“We always deliver what we promised to the community,” Reyes said.

There is also room for the future Facilities Manager, an outside firm expected to generate the programmatic requirements and memberships needed to cover the costs of running the center.

Early estimates put the community center’s operating costs at around $2.1 million per year. Councilman John Satti, who was against using Fort Trumbull for the center, said about $500,000 a year was needed to cover pool maintenance alone and questioned the plan of the city aiming to generate what amounts to 175,000 dollars per month to cover operating costs.

“How do you expect to find this 2.1 million dollars a year? Is it something you’re going to expect taxpayers to pay or is it something this facility will be able to generate on its own? If so, please explain how,” Satti asked Reyes during Monday’s meeting.

Reyes reiterated that his goal from the beginning was to have a business plan with memberships, rental fees and sponsorships generating the necessary revenue while providing an affordable income-based membership plan for residents.

It can take up to four years, Reyes said, for the building to reach a point where its revenues match the costs. The city will seek to operate the center without imposing a burden on ratepayers, although the city plans to meet some maintenance costs associated with things like snow removal and garbage collection.

“It’s a new way of doing things, a new business model for the city,” Reyes said.

Final details on how the money will be generated have yet to be finalized.

Reyes said the city expects revenue to exceed operational costs in the future, which will reduce the debt incurred with the construction of the center.

“It’s important for the city to go after every dollar to help service the debt,” Reyes said.

Further updates on the progress of community center planning shall be provided to the public at all other council meetings. Planning for another public meeting is also underway. Construction is expected to begin later this year.

g.smith@theday.com

Abdul J. Gaspar