The Palm Coast Community Center, a 42-year-old structure built off Palm Coast Parkway when the county had a population of about 7,000 people, is about to get a complete, $7.8 million make-over that will more than triple the size of the 5,800-square-foot building starting in February. Holland Park Syndrome notwithstanding, the project is scheduled to be completed by January 2018.
The cost is double what City Manager Jim Landon had first estimated it would be in 2013, when he projected it to be at “$3 to $4 million,” based on a cost of $200 per square foot at the time.
“When this project was first bid out, we’ve seen a substantial increase in cost of construction,” Mayor Milissa Holland said, “just due to materials.” She cited labor shortages as well. None of the council members in place today were on the council when Landon first submitted the renovation project plans three years ago.
But the council’s two senior members, Steven Nobile and Heidi Shipley, joined the council in 2014 and had discussions about the project then—when Landon brought forth a hurried proposal to postpone building the community center then, so an additional wing could be added to the Palm Coast City Hall. Landon projected the switch as a cost-saving.
“This project was postponed, and part of postponing this project was on the heels of saving money to build this wing right here,” Nobile said, referring to the community center’s construction postponement so an additional wing to the Palm Coast City Hall could be built. “So those savings are now gone. So the money we saved to say, let’s postpone the community center top build this community wing here, we’re sitting in, a big part of that sell was, we’re going to save money if we do it now. And now those savings, theoretically, if you balance it out, have gone out the window.”
But Landon wanted city hall done completely first. Landon was not at today’s council meeting, when his staff submitted the new plans.
“The point of the switch, a big point of the switch was to save money. I just want to bring that up because it’s important to understand that when we make those quick decisions, it’s going to affect something else. That decision to build the community wing was, you know, come in here, it was two weeks, we’ve got to do this, if we don’t do it now we lose, so I just want to make sure that we realize that this cost, really it pushed our community center out two years, and we didn’t really save the money on it.”
Nobile had no issue with the project going forward, however, joining the rest of the council.
The city is hiring Oldsmar, Fla.-based Ajax Building Corporation for the project, with any cost overruns being the contractor’s responsibility. If there are savings, 80 percent return to the city, 20 percent to the contractor. It’ll be by far the city’s largest capital project this year, with $4.5 million coming out of this year’s capital projects fund, or more than half the $7.9 million to be spent on capital projects overall. Another $3 million for the community center will come out of next year’s capital projects pot.
It’ll be a bigger building with more parking space, a bigger playground, more visibility to passing traffic and of course a lot more space for the 35,000-some people who use the community center in any given year. The only part of the existing structure that will remain standing is the old council meeting room. The rest will be rebuilt.
By the time it’s done, the center will have three big “function” rooms, with the old council meeting room, at 2,000 square feet, the smallest among them. The other two will be 3,400 square feet and 5,000 square feet. It’ll also have two small function rooms of under 400 square feet each. There’ll be five offices ranging from 94 square feet to 310 square feet, an ample, 910 square-foot lobby, two kitchens, two pantries, four storage areas totaling about 1,000 square feet between them, and of course two large restroom areas plus a private, single-user restroom that will accommodate families and transgender people if necessary.
“It’s going to be roughly about three times the size it is now,” Carl Cote, the city’s construction manager, said.
The artists’ renderings of the building show an architecturally more engaging structure than the boxy, hermetic structure in place now—and a less squat and hemmed-in building than when first conceptualized in 2013. It now has large glass panes and glass doors, a partly vaulted and partly gabled roof structure, and a whole side that lends it the look of a white-fenced porch, emphasizing the feel of a home-like setting. The renderings make the building look more interesting and less exclusively utilitarian than City Hall’s K-car-like architecture.
Meanwhile the city has forewarned all regular users of the center that their activities would have to be shifted elsewhere by February, when demolition and construction begins on Feb. 1.
“The entire site will be closed to the public,” including the basketball court, Cote said. “The playground will be removed, the basketball court will be removed, basically the site will be chained off.” For users of the basketball court, it’ll be yet another move: many of them were booted off the Holland Park basketball court to accommodate reconstruction there, which has yet to end, with no clear opening date set.
When the community center project is done, there will still only be an entrance and exit off of Clubhouse Drive, but a second entrance will be added along that road to make it easier to go in and out.