Task force: Bring us a larger community center

  • By Oscar Halpert Enterprise editor
  • Tuesday, November 18, 2008 6:08pm


Architects and planners helping plan a new City Hall will come up with a larger community center proposal, after hearing from Civic Facilities Task Force members Nov. 12 that the latest suggestion isn’t big enough.

“I submit to the community that it is totally inadequate for a city of 21,000 people,” task force vice-chair Patrick McMahan told consultants after architects Miller/Hull presented a proposal to build a 7,000-square foot community center on the civic center campus, off 58th Avenue West. “We can go over to the high school for 450 seats.”

Task force members said they’d like to see a community center of 8,500 square feet.

For the past four months, the City Council-appointed task force has been looking into the city’s facility needs. The group was appointed prior to the July collapse of the ceiling in City Hall’s council chambers.

Since then, the task force has taken tours of other cities’ buildings, held public meetings and hashed out proposals submitted by consultants with expertise in architecture, planning and space needs assessment.

In Oct. 29 and Nov. 12 meetings, consultants briefed the task force on a proposal that would convert the city’s Civic Center, bounded by 58th avenue West and 232nd Street Southwest, in to a terraced, verdant green space. The task force is scheduled to present its recommendations to the council Dec. 18.

The council has said it wants to do away with the existing City Hall building. Council chambers have been unusable since the ceiling collapse.

The architects’ vision sees a future farmer’s market situated at 58th Avenue West and 232nd St. Southwest, a two-story City Hall building with a four-story tall office tower with a green roof (with a view area open to the public) to reduce runoff, solar panels and orienting the building to take advantage of available sunlight.

At the Nov. 12 meeting, architect Robert Hull told task force members the latest proposal would place the police department inside City Hall, keeping a physical connection to the existing site, which would be used for storage and training.

City Hall would be demolished. In its place: a new civic park with parking underneath it.

The new City Hall would consist of the four-story office “tower” at the corner of 58th Avenue West and 232nd Street Southwest and a rectangular two-story building in which the first floor would serve nearly all of the daily public needs, from permit applications to registrations and utility payments.

But task force members were clearly not happy with the size of a community center Miller/Hull has positioned on the opposite side of the civic park, facing City Hall and the library.

“We surely don’t want to, five years down the road, say ‘Boy, what were we thinking,’” said task force member Alice Kier, who chairs the city’s Planning Commission.

Task force member and State Rep. Al O’Brien, D-Mountlake Terrace, agreed.

“I’d be a lot more comfortable with a larger community center,” he said.

Planning consultant Sandy Fisher told task force members the envisioned civic center campus has a terraced green space suitable for small performances just west of the library. As you move closer to City Hall, the use becomes less park-like to match the flow “from natural to urban.”

“It sort of goes from not very public functions to increasingly public functions as you move toward Town Center,” she said.

Surface parking would be scaled back, under the proposal, with new diagonal parking added along 58th Avenue West.

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