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The New Palm Coast Community Center: A Bounty of Spaces Welcoming Uses and Nature

| March 14, 2018

palm coast community center

Almost ready for its grand re-opening on March 23. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

When Palm Coast government wants to do something well–and when it has $8 million to do it–there’s no stopping it.

Nine months after re-opening a re-imagined Holland Park to cheers that have since given way to throngs and ceaseless delight, the city is about to re-open its Community Center on Palm Coast Parkway. A ribbon-cutting and public tours are set for March 23.


From the unrecognizable looks of the center’s vastness and openness, of the versatility of its spaces and the beauty of its expanded and shaded open grounds, it is likely to draw even more cheers than did Holland Park, and become a hub of activities for residents of all ages, from civic meetings to weddings to parties. Eighteen organizations have already lined up to be regular users of the center’s four to five rooms, with more organizations certain to follow.

“It’s heartwarming just to see the city put in the time and to meet the needs of the community and their requests,” said Lauren Johnston during a tour of the facility this morning. “I believe we really needed this facility.” Johnston, a recreation specialist, has been with the city for a decade and will be in charge of the building, including scheduling. She (and many others) have those memories of the very cramped old community center, a building that dated back to 1975, when it belonged to the county. It was 5,800 square feet, serving a population of 10,000. The city’s population has grown eightfold since. The new building is now four times that size. Of the old structure, it preserves only what used to be the 2,000 square-foot room where the city council used to hold its meetings before moving to City Hall at the end of 2015.

Jalen Hancock and Peggy Wishneski at the front desk in an enormous lobby. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Jalen Hancock and Peggy Wishneski at the front desk in an enormous lobby. Click on the image for larger view.
(© FlaglerLive)

The two buildings provide a curious contrast. The 32,000 square-foot City Hall, designed by the architecture firm C.T. Hsu of Orlando (the firm that designed that city’s Amway Center and many government buildings) is architecturally disappointing–a nondescript box that does nothing to relieve the middle-of-nowhereness of its surroundings, let alone give the city it represents a sense of identity it desperately needs.

The community center, designed by VOA Associates, also of Orlando (Oldsmar, Fla.-based Ajax Building Corporation was the contractor), is more interesting as it more successfully plays off the challenges of its setting–between the two arteries of Palm Coast Parkway–while putting its 4.7 acres to effective use, as it had not previously. The risk was that the new building’s T-shaped size, at 18,000 square feet, plus the renovated and expanded play areas and retention ponds, would be out of proportion with the narrow strip of land between the Parkways. But the much larger building claims its space comfortably along inviting sidewalks and ponds on either side, mostly along the westbound lanes of Palm Coast Parkway, while the larger playgrounds make better use of space while preserving the noble canopy of mossy oaks above and making that public park among the more inviting and shaded in the city. The parking lot’s capacity has grown from 64 spaces to 115, but only by stretching parking areas a bit on the north side of the building, where the old basketball court used to be (the court has been pushed further west), and some of the parking spaces include grassy, permeable areas to help with water absorption. So even from the outside the community center reflects the word “community” much more than it does words like “government” or “hall.”

The largest room at the center might as well be a skating rink: it's 5,000 square feet. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

The largest room at the center might as well be a skating rink: it’s 5,000 square feet. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Looking at the center’s facade from the outside, the entrance’s original design offered the only hint of ostentation if the city followed through with the design and added its outsized logo to the entrance, blocking otherwise handsome vaulted windows. The logo was not there this morning, only the modest and appropriate lettering: “COMMUNITY CENTER.” And a city official this afternoon said the city decided against installing the logo, thus preserving the integrity of the facade.

There was no doubt that this was Palm Coast’s community center anyway because a largish “Palm Coast Community Center” sign similar to signs at the entrance of the city or its parks announced the property from a corner to westbound traffic on the parkway.

For those who remember the old community center, which had been an homage to snarls and crowding, stepping into the lobby through the double doors is like taking flight: one’s head immediately goes skyward to see how far the high ceilings go. The lobby alone looks as big as the old center. It’s only the beginning. (The walls were bare this morning but Cindi Lane, the city’s spokesperson, said the high walls will soon be adorned with large images in sound-absorbing frames.) Two people will always be at the front desk, as Peggy Wishneski and Jalen Hancock were this morning.

The 3,400-square-foot Waterfront Room, which will be all but owned by the Bridge Club, is naturally illuminated, as are all the center's rooms, and opens to the east onto what will be a fountain-centered pond. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

The 3,400-square-foot Waterfront Room, which will be all but owned by the Bridge Club, is naturally illuminated, as are all the center’s rooms, and opens to the east onto what will be a fountain-centered pond. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

“It’s a community center so we wanted it to be welcoming,” Lane said. “The design, they’re calling coastal contemporary, and so we did want to reflect our community, which is very much bringing the nature from outside in, and having the colors to be a little bit like the ocean. We actually feel that this facility is going to be a place where tourists and residents will naturally come in, maybe not for any reason. It isn’t so much like a welcome center or a tourism center but we’ll be very much prepared to be that.”

It’s one of the lesser spoken-of details of the $8 million renovation that it has also added to the city’s payroll. The city’s Parks and Recreation division employs 125 to 150 people at peak season between April and September, many of those part-timers, and 65 to 75 people the rest of the year, some 15 of them forming the core administrative ranks.

The largest room is 5,000 square feet, almost the size of the entire old community center. Like all other rooms in the building it’s simple, square, and lined with windows that flood the interior with natural light. The room is large enough to be a skating rink. It adjoins one of the building’s two kitchens, which are set up for catering but not commercial uses: simply put, storage of food yes, cooking, no. The room can’t be subdivided, but the city sees multi uses, and simultaneous uses, for it during the week, depending on the organization renting it.

The old council room, the only room to be preserved, has been renovated to fully expose its ceiling's handsome woodwork, in a nice touch that evokes the past, and its floor rubberized to enable youth programs. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

The old council room, the only room to be preserved, has been renovated to fully expose its ceiling’s handsome woodwork, in a nice touch that evokes the past, and its floor rubberized to enable youth programs. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Among the many organizations that are lining up to use the facility: Turning Point Church, AARP, Tax Aide, Color Me Happy (an adult coloring club), the Republican Club, the Flagler County Tea Party, the Palm Coast Historical Society, and many others. The long-standing bridge club will be using another large room, that one a 3,383 square-foot so-called Waterfront Room at the east end of the building, where the club will meet daily, five days a week, for most of the day, and hold weekend tournaments. They might as well call that room the Bridge Club Room.

“Our goal for this building, especially during business hours, was to provide senior social interactive programs,” Johnston said. “This is a multi-generational facility. While there is a need for specialized individual senior programs, we’re going to be able to provide those as a senior social interaction Monday through Friday.”

In between the two larger rooms is the Exploration Room, a 754-square-foot seminar-like room that can be divided in two, and that will, among other things, be used for elections.

And there’s this: no more intolerably long lines to get a bathroom break. The old center’s bathrooms provided only two women’s stalls and two men’s urinals and a stall. The new bathrooms are more airport-sized: 16 women’s stalls, eight men’s, one family bathroom.

The center's playgrounds and park have been completely renovated and its noble canopy preserved. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

The center’s playgrounds and park have been completely renovated and its noble canopy preserved. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Finally, there’s the one room that hasn’t been demolished and replaced: the old council room, its 2,000 square feet renovated, its ceiling completely opened up to reveal the old wood supporting beams in a nice touch that evokes the now-almost historical nature of the room, and a floor converted to a rubberized surface, making it ideal for the community center’s youth programs (or, again, for the odd council meeting if necessary).

In sum, the old facility was so cramped that with summer camps going on, other activities such as Lunch-n-Lecture had to be suspended for those months, while other programs had to be “minimized,” as Johnston put it. No longer. “We will be able to host summer camp as well as facilitate all of those programs on a year-round basis,” she said. Lunch-n-Lecture will be year-round, as will the new Coffee Series and other club and program activities, without conflicts.

women's bathroom

The women’s bathroom has increased the number of stalls eight-fold: no more lines. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

The administrative area at the center of the building, off limits to the general public, is the only space that may not be as roomy. Cindi: “This is one area where I would say we’re going to run out of space sooner” than planned, Lane said. “When we moved in and saw the size of the office space we were like, hmmm, wish we had a little more office space.”

If the worker bees ever feel cramped, one look outside will bring relief, whether at the 143 trees (68 were preserved, 75 were added), the playgrounds for the younger set or the ample walkways that link up with Linear Park’s walkway. And for those playing outside, there’s now bathrooms accessible for park-goers until 10 p.m. Lane compares the center’s amenities, and its public-park features, to Holland Park.

“Once people find the community center it’ll be the same thing, I think this will be a destination park, especially for families with younger kids,” she said.

The city is hosting a grand opening of the center on Friday, center gets its grand opening on March 23 at 5 p.m., with a ribbon-cutting at 5:15 and tours for the public. Tours will continue that Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

palm coast community center

Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

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16 Responses for “The New Palm Coast Community Center: A Bounty of Spaces Welcoming Uses and Nature”

  1. Rob Jr says:

    “The long-standing bridge club will be using another large room, that one a 3,383 square-foot so-called Waterfront Room at the east end of the building, where the club will meet daily, five days a week, for most of the day, and hold weekend tournaments.”

    How is it that the Bridge Club is allocated the use of another large room for what appears to be on a perpetual basis?

  2. Denise Calderwood says:

    I believe it is because they agreed to pay a hefty sum of something like $100,000 or more to use the dedicated space and as a result the city is expecting senior groups that meet elsewhere to pay $25 an hour to rent space and they would still be expected to set up and break down their own tables and chairs they use so don’t ask me what the staff do there if one has to pay then set up should be covered. What happens if chairs that are stacked up high collapse then we pay for another lawsuit.

    Also the city held a focus group meeting for seniors where over 150 seniors attended and spoke for over two hours giving suggestions with none of the comments being followed up on. it seems to me this is another pet project being used by a select few…. the ones with money… Like the tennis court and golf course. It is time for the ordinary senior taxpayer to wake up and hold city staff and elected officials accountable.

    Palm Coast Parks and Recreation has a larger budget than Ormond Beach and they manage several more programs and facilities including the Ormond Beach Performing Arts Center than we do so where is the accountability ! We know it isn’t in the budgeting process!

  3. John Brady says:

    “The long-standing bridge club will be using another large room, that one a 3,383 square-foot so-called Waterfront Room at the east end of the building, where the club will meet daily, five days a week, for most of the day, and hold weekend tournaments. They might as well call that room the Bridge Club Room”,

    And no senior citizen center????

    Why did Council not leave the old Community Center alone and build this building in another part of town. Less expensive no demolition needed and in the end there would be 2 locations and maybe a senior center at one of the locations

  4. Barbara Kipnis says:

    How much are the room rentals? Couldn’t find the rates online.

  5. palmcoastpioneers says:

    Palm Coast Community Center formerly known as the ‘ Y’ :

    PALM COAST YMCA FULL OF ACTIVITY

    For the Palm Coast YMCA, there aren’t enough days in the month, nor hours in the day to provide time for all its activities. The YMCA has a variety of programs for the area residents from oil painting to weight lifting.
    A typical Monday morning at the YMCA begins at nine when the three and four year olds arrive for preschool classes. In another section of the YMCA building Jarly Jackson, a 70 year old former acrobat, is teaching exercise class. After a lunch break, it is “children’s fun time.” During this time there are also weight lifting classes in the next room taught by Tim Shanahan.
    From 4-5 p.m. there is after school play hour for the school age children.
    After dinner activities begin again with square dancing at 6:30. The evening ends with a youth rap session from 7:30 until 9 for the teenagers, and German lessons taught in the next room by Anne Russell.
    All day people are in and out of the YMCA building, coming also to watch television, play billiards or ping pong. Also, many organizations hold their meetings in the large multi-purpose room of the Y. In other words, the YMCA has been going non-stop since its doors opened on December 11th.
    The YMCA has various special events planned for the future. One event will be a disco dance for teenagers. Plans are also underway for a spring softball team.
    There are currently 352 YMCA members and the number is growing. Family memberships are $50. a year, husband and wife memberships $40 a year, single adult memberships are $25. yearly, and youth memberships are $10. Membership at the Y entitles the member the use of the facilities as well as free participation in the many classes and activities held there. Non-member must pay a fee.
    This marks the first time in the Y::MCA’s more than 130 years of operation that it has opened a Y:MCA in a developing community. According to Dr. Robert Harlan, Executive Director of the National Board of the YMCA, it is customary to open a Y in an already developed community of about 50,000 but “so far the experiment appears to be a big success.”
    The beautiful YMCA building and the grounds on Palm Coast Parkway were donated by the ITT Community Development Corporation, which is also underwriting the expenses of the Y: for the next several years.
    So if you’re looking for something to do, stop by the YM:CA and discover the many interesting programs it has to offer. You can see for yourself why it’s a big success.

    Excerpt from: ‘The Palm Coaster’, published by the Corporate Communications Department of ITT Community Development Corporation for Palm Coast property owners, purchasers and homeowners, as well as their families and friends. Vol 7, Number 2, Summer 1978, p. 8. http://palmcoastcorehomes.tripod.com/id19.html

    The City of Palm Coast Historical Society, since it is part of the City of Palm Coast, should pursue an Official State of Florida Historic MARKER for this building / public recreational acreage.
    This would give Palm Coast a ‘…sense of being…’ and a ‘…sense of Identity…’. Perhaps at the same time the City of Palm Coast Historical Society should pursue another Official State of Florida Historic Heritage MARKER for the adjacent ‘ Emergency Services Building ‘ for our Community Protectors. Sadly, in April 2017 we asked him to pursue these but to no avail.

    This is what we in Palm Coasts’ first Neighborhood , the Levitt & I.T.T. Showcase Golf Course Neighborhood , pursued and acquired:

    https://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=103420

    https://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=100406

    https://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=92371

    If you want to read about the Origins of this Public Recreational Building and Acreage:

    http://palmcoastcorehomes.tripod.com/id20.html

    We have been networking with ‘ The Smithsonian ‘ per their request from the Chair of The Smithsonian. We have periodically sent packets to The Smithsonian for the Levitt Palm Coast Collection there.

    We hope our efforts give the newer Palm Coasters a great ‘ Sense of Place ‘ and a ‘ Sense of Idenity ‘.

    Thank You.

  6. PcFC says:

    Why doesnt Palm Coast build, a like Central Downtown by the movie theater there is plenty of room you have City Offices there how about some shops cafes with inside and outside seating, A walk around Central Park ,a movie, and some shopping,and coffee,or glass of wine .Palm Coast is spread out with no real Down Town Feeling, what better spot than Centeral Park .

  7. Denise Calderwood says:

    Several years ago when the city did the referendum for a new city hall and a new community center they paid for a study, paid for building specs at three Parks to build three new community centers total cost was less than 3 million dollars and facilities were designed and sited out at Indian Trails Park, Ralph Carter Park and one in Seminole Woods park. All three logical locations and three new buildings with one being dedicated to Seniors. Using Mr Landon’s and Mr Coffey”s words these are shelf ready projects designed and paid for and in ready to be done just waiting for funding opportunities. Well apparently we had the money all along and now all we have is one BIG community center instead of four. I guess the good news is we paid cash for it. With our population growth we have or will be outgrowing the new building and of course let’s not discuss a dedicated senior center because it’s not needed according to our elected officials. That is ridiculous not all Seniors play bridge, golf or tennis some just need a place to socialize!

  8. Percy's mother says:

    Even with the lovely new community center I see we’re still talking about a SENIOR CENTER.

    We don’t need it (a senior-specific center paid for by the taxpayers). There appears to be plenty of room at the new community center for seniors to reserve a room on a monthly or weekly basis for senior activities. I would start contacting the powers that be about being one of the first in line for reserving a room for senior activities.

    Please let it go. AND, before I’m accused of being a mean YOUNG person, I’m not.

  9. John Yankovich says:

    Let’s not forget that both the new city hall and this new community center were voted down by a margin of 3 to 1. And both were built anyway. The new Town Center is an oxymoron! Palm Coast government does not listen to the people. Just look at all the antics of Arrogant Landon!!! Fire his backside and run him out of town along with a few of the council members.

  10. palmcoaster says:

    Yes John non of these 2 (city hall and community center) were approved in the referendum and I feel very uncomfortable with it, to say the least.

  11. anon says:

    So WHERE are all the ‘community centers’ with the indoor basketball courts – like MOST other cities have? In the county I came from (which had about the same number of residents), there were at least 3 county parks with not only outdoor but INDOOR basketball courts for the kids. Shame on Palm Coast for not thinking of the kids. The schools want thousands of dollars just for basketball teams to be able to practice and/or play there. How about caring about the taxpayers and their kids who fund the county parks as well? Build indoor courts.

  12. markingthedays says:

    I look forward to using the new community center!

  13. Flagler County Citizen says:

    Palm Coast has a healthy senior population, but it is not all seniors. It needs a general community center. I noticed that many “senior centers” are funded by the Council on Aging, and it appears they are often operated through the county, not through a city. Volusia County has over 500,000 people. Flagler County has just over 100,000. Flagler County has one senior center which includes a dining site (in Flagler Beach). Volusia has seven dining sites, and of them, only four are senior activity centers. We’re on the up and up, for sure, but we’re on track.

    I’m sure there will be activities at the PC Community Center (more than just bridge) that will be great for people of all ages. It might take a bit of time. It’s all new. :)

    Be optimistic, folks. I think this is fantastic for the city!

  14. Will says:

    There’s just something hilarious about the Tea Party signing up to use a building built by our taxes. While they rail against taxes. Just precious.

  15. K. Mills says:

    Someone commented we have a YMCA…where? I have lived here 15 years and had no idea! I second the comment about more ‘facilities’ indoor for kids but, people of all ages too. We live in Florida. It is hot. We want to workout and ‘play’ indoors in the comfort of air conditioning. ( Basketball courts, racquetball courts…etc..) Heaven forbid we add an opportunity for exercise and activity. We will probably be getting five more McDonalds, six more Wendy’s, and how about another liquor store? Have to give it to Palm Coast for consistency, albeit negative.

  16. anon says:

    Re Senior Center – Obviously some don’t know what a senior center actually IS – a place for seniors to come and be together, perhaps with a adult daycare center there too where caregivers can get some respite from 24-7 care of their parents/grandparents, etc.

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