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Old Building With A New Look

Woods Community Center renovation process is in motion.

The Woods Community Center in Burke Centre is its own time capsule.

The different sections of the building, which began as a private residence and is now used as a community center, have construction dates going as far back as the French and Indian War and as recently as World War II.

According to a history compiled by former Burke Centre Conservancy director Thomas Wade, the land was purchased by Henry Ward in 1725 and 1730, and an early version of the house was built in the early 1760s. It was a one and a half-story log house with a stone foundation called "Locust Hill." It was remodeled in the 1890s and again about two decades later, and in the 1940s, the building passed from descendants of the Coffer family to William Downey. Around that same time, an extension was built onto the back of the house. Nothing in the existing building remains of the original 18th-century house.

Unfortunately, the building has been showing its age for some time. "The existing building is literally falling apart," said Burke Centre executive director Patrick Gloyd. "Even if it wasn’t going to expand, we would renovate it."

The 1940s' extension is very poorly built and as a result, is in very poor condition, said Andy Caldwell of Mobley Partnership Architects, who designed the renovation. The main part of the renovation process, then, will be tearing down this extension and replacing it with a larger extension.

"The older [1890s] part is actually in very good condition," said Caldwell.

ONCE THE BURKE Centre Conservancy came up with the $1.6 million needed for a renovation and extension of the building in the spring of 2005, the process could begin.

In early January, the building closed for asbestos removal. If plans progress as hoped, said Gloyd, then construction will begin this summer.

"My hope is that it will be another center that is very nicely done with capacity for larger groups," said Gloyd. "The potential is to be able to have several meetings to be going on at once, so that three or more groups of 15 to 20 people can be meeting in these rooms and not get in each other's way."

Although the newly renovated building will look exactly the same from the front, the addition will be about four times the size of the current back part, said Caldwell. It will consist of two floors, one aboveground and one below, with the newly refurbished basement turned into three classrooms with sinks and tables.

"It ought to be in keeping with the theme of the old house," said Brenda Trask, chair of the Woods Community Center Renovation Committee. "The community said in a survey they wanted to keep it. The architectural design will blend with the old house."

The top floor of the back addition will be a large meeting room measuring 48 feet by 48 feet, said Caldwell. According to Trask, this is something the Woods neighborhood sorely needs.

"The Woods doesn’t have a place where you can have a Super Bowl party," she said. "You always have to do it somewhere else." The meeting hall can be used by any Burke Centre resident for weddings, large meetings or parties, with a catering kitchen built onto the side for food preparation. The ground-level passageway between the original house and the new addition will also be opened up so that the view from the front door looks directly into the ballroom fireplace, said Gloyd.

The 1890s section of the building will remain much the same as far as room structure, but will bolstered and refurbished with new siding and windows. It is not a historic renovation, said Caldwell, so the siding and windows will be made with stronger material than what is currently there. But the materials on the refurbished building will replicate the look of the old ones, said Gloyd.

ALTHOUGH THE cost of the Woods Center renovation was projected at about $1.6 million when the Conservancy first entered into the process, construction prices have likely risen since then, said Gloyd.

The next step for the architects and the Conservancy is to get demolition and building permits from Fairfax County. Once these are secured, said Gloyd, the Conservancy can demolish the back section of the building and put out construction bids. If plans progress as hoped, he said, demolition will begin in late spring so construction can begin in the summer.

As the renovation progresses, said Gloyd, a particular challenge to figure out will be how to deal with parking during the summer. Right now, he said, the Woods Center parking lot has nearly 50 spaces in it, serving both the community center and the adjacent pool. As the Woods Center's uses expand, he said, the demand for parking will grow beyond the limited number of available spaces.

"What will the county allow us to do in terms of simultaneous functions?" said Gloyd. "The answer might be, you can't have 150 people in the building when the pool's open." Options include scaling back the pool hours on days the community center would be heavily used, or not scheduling large events when the pool is open, he said.

When it is finished, said Trask, the community center will be a major benefit to the Woods neighborhood and to Burke Centre.

"I hope we'll be proud of it, that we'll want to use it more and start thinking about other events we want to have there," she said.