Latest Rec. Center Plans Unveiled

Latest Rec. Center Plans Unveiled

Only seven residents turned out last Thursday night to hear the latest plans for the new Charles Houston Recreation Center, 905 Wythe St., scheduled to be completed by the summer of 2008.

Prior to its regular meeting, the Parks and Recreation Commission, heard a presentation detailing various aspects of the proposed new center by Jeremy McPike, project manager, Department of General Services, Alexandria, and Keith Leonard, The Lukmire Parnership, architects for the new center.

With increased areas for boxing, a repositioned outdoor pool, a gymnasium that can seat nearly 500 people, a computer room, an 80 foot by 80 foot lawn area, and revitalized playground, the new center was described by Judy Guse-Noritake, chair of the Commission as, "The best recreation center in the City."

The present center has approximately 18,000 net square feet. When completed, the new center will have 28,000 net square feet and approximately 34,000 gross square feet. The boxing area will be increased from its present 1,500 square feet to 1,800 square feet, according to Leonard.

ON PRIOR PLANS the pool was to be located on an outside corner of the property. Revised plans call for it to be "wrapped by buildings to increase its security," Leonard explained.

"The structure is designed to be in scale and form with the surrounding neighborhood. Where the roof is not peaked it will be a "green roof" that will help control runoff and be more ecological sensitive," he said.

There will be two entrances, safe pedestrian crossing areas on surrounding streets, and public art on the grounds, according to McPike. The public art will pay tribute to Charles Houston the center's namesake.

The key design criteria outlined by Leonard includes: An open and welcoming building, meeting program requirements, having flexible spaces to meet changing needs, a building that is easy for staff to monitor, creating the appropriate number of parking spaces, making it safe and secure, and having it conform to the area master plan while being compatible with the surrounding neighborhood.

When it came to discussing the proposed playground on site, Roger Blakely, deputy director, Parks/Recreation & Capital Projects, Alexandria Department of Recreation, Parks & Cultural Activities, said, "We are going to give Charles Houston the very best we can."

He promised state-of-the-art equipment, a rubberized surface, and seating for parents. "The playground should be able to hold about 40 people. We are also trying to develop some type of covering for that area so that it can be used in mild, wet weather," he said.

Construction is anticipated to commence during the winter of 2007 with completion projected for summer of 2008, according to McPike.

Noritake indicated there would be additional opportunities for public input as the project progresses.