By Oscar Halpert Herald Writer
MUKILTEO — A new building is rising in Old Town.
What will become the new Rosehill Community Center — a two-story-high building with steel and wood facade and huge windows at Third Street and Lincoln Avenue — stands in stark contrast to the aging, blue wooden building next door that it soon will replace.
The city expects to tear down at the end of this year the old Rosehill Community Center, which was a local arts and recreational hub since the city took possession of it from the Mukilteo School District in 1977.
Residents debated the future of the 82-year-old Rosehill Community Center for years.
The biggest controversy was whether to remodel or rebuild.
When it opens to the public in February, the new building will provide space for nearly all of the activities available at the older Rosehill and some that aren’t feasible now.
The project is funded with $12.9 million in bonds to be repaid with taxes on the sale of property in the city over 20 years.
“All the windows face out toward the water and it has beautiful views of the Puget Sound,” said Jennifer Berner, the city’s recreation and cultural services manager. “So it really takes advantage of the site and this beautiful area of Mukilteo in which we live.”
People will enter the new building on the second floor, where they’ll be greeted by a large room with a stage suitable for weddings, performances and as a rented space for community groups, Berner said. Another room is set aside for seniors, with a big screen TV donated by the Mukilteo Senior Association and additional furniture supplied by the city. The Rosehill Room on the main level will offer space to relax, with a fireplace and comfortable chairs, Berner said. There, historical photographs of the original Rosehill School will be on display.
Downstairs, the new center will offer rooms for art and dance classes, a small fitness center and a game room open to anyone but especially for teens, she said. Restrooms and showers also will be available on the lower level.
A majority of residents in a 2008 advisory vote said they preferred to tear the old Rosehill Community Center down and build a new one.
The City Council agreed, voting 4-3 to tear down the former Rosehill School.
Some people opposed the idea.
“The new one is going to be Mukilteo’s white elephant,” said Pat Kessler. “I don’t think they can afford what they bought.”
The old Rosehill was a former school built in 1928. The ground on which it sits will become the new Rosehill plaza, complete with the preserved entry arch from the original Rosehill.
“It lends itself to a variety of outdoor activities we could have happening there,” Berner said.
Some people opposed building the new Rosehill, which is being constructed without a gymnasium. Sections of the gym floor will be used as building materials in both the new game room and Rose Hill room.
“There are other options out there for gyms,” Berner said.
Council President Randy Lord and his council colleague Kevin Stoltz wanted to save money by remodeling the existing site.
“My original view and vote was to remodel the existing facility because it showed to be more cost effective,” Lord wrote via e-mail. Even after the close advisory vote, Lord continued to favor remodeling Rosehill.
Stoltz said he’s concerned about the long-term financial impact of new Rosehill and laments the decision to go without a gymnasium. Council members decided the city had a greater need for meeting space and could save money without a gym.
“I don’t know any community centers that are built without a gym,” Stoltz said. “We’re going to have a great community center but it’s questionable whether it’s really serving the needs of the community or just making Mukilteo the wedding capital of the world.”
Councilman Richard Emery said he supported the new building reluctantly.
“I thought we should pay attention to what (voters) were advising us to do,” he said.
Mayor Joe Marine said people debated whether to remodel or rebuild Rosehill for many years. He said he expects many who favored remodeling Rosehill will be happy once they see the new building.
“Sometimes people don’t like change until they get it,” he said.
The Mukilteo City Council will review budget and staffing for the new Rosehill Community Center from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday at Mukilteo City Hall Council Chambers, 11930 Cyrus Way.