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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Center unveils construction, expansion plans

The Anna Maria Island Community Center construction team unveiled its proposed design for a new learning center at a community meeting Oct. 19.

The meeting was an opportunity for the community to meet the new construction team members as well as provide final input in the design of the facility.

Center staff began assessing the need for additional space and renovation of its facilities in 2000. This summer, the architectural firm of Jerry Zoller and construction management firm Walbridge Aldinger were hired to begin the design and construction process.

Center Executive Director Pierrette Kelly said the construction committee interviewed six companies and selected Zoller and Walbridge because their past projects have not only been well recognized, but "were very cost effective."

The Center's board of directors also hired Frank Mozeleski of the Mozeleski Group as its project manager. Kelly said Mozeleski will ensure that the project is on target for quality and cost.

On hand to present the design plans to the community were Mozeleski, architect Jerry Zoller and Craig Vincent of Walbridge Aldinger.

Plans presented to the community show parking surrounding the entire perimeter of the Center property, including an additional nine spaces where the present playground is located. The playground equipment will be moved between the baseball field and main building to provide a more secure play area.

Mozeleski said that the existing concrete stadium will be torn down and replaced with aluminum bleachers. The team also proposes tearing down the existing main building and replacing it with a two-story building that will extend from the existing gymnasium.

The new building will have a metal seam roof and the team proposed replacing the roof on the gymnasium to match the new building.

The plans also show a vehicle dropoff at the Center entrance on Magnolia Avenue, which Mozeleski said should reduce some of the current traffic congestion. The team is also proposing to add security lighting outdoors on the existing light poles, and to add trash receptacles in the playground and gated areas.

The team proposed an additional two-story, 1,654-square-foot structure next to the new main building and existing ballfield. The first floor of this structure would have bathroom facilities, a breezeway from the soccer field to the playground, and a new dugout and concession stand. The second story would contain a press box overlooking the playing fields.

The team said the plans have not gone to Anna Maria City for permitting yet and they haven't begun designing the interior space.

Residents raised a few concerns about the Center's plans. Some residents wanted to ensure that the programs offered were primarily for Island residents and that when the facilities are updated the Center won't be actively advertising off the Island.

Kelly said the Center will continue to focus on the needs of Island residents.

Another resident questioned why the Center couldn't move its facilities to Holmes Beach and build a new Center near the Birdie-Tebbetts ball field.

Kelly said Holmes Beach has been approached in the past and that there was even a proposal on the table as far back as 1978. "We have tried to get space and with the price of land on the Island, this is the space we have to work with," she said. "We have to deal with what we have and we want to take advantage of what we have."

Kelly also noted that the updated Center will provide enough space to accommodate adding more teen programs. Currently the Center does not have enough space to meet Florida Department of Children and Families licensing program requirments that teens, adults and young children not share space at the same time.

Kelly added that there are very few kids in the community the Center does not serve.

One resident asked what it would take to have a youth center where kids could go to all the time. "They need a place to go on their own schedule, and there is no place for them to go after 9 p.m.," he said.

"If we didn't adjust the building we wouldn't be able to have a teen program. But we don't just open the Center as a hang out. We've tried afternoon and evening programs but didn't have a lot of turn out," she said.

Other people at the meeting replied that kids should be home after 9 p.m. anyway.

Focusing back on the site plan, residents also inquired about how the new parking spaces would be paved and the team said that also had not been finalized, but it was considering using paver blocks similar to those utilized at the Center now.

Vincent said the construction team plans to have traffic enter the site off Palm Avenue and will keep a small area fenced off on the property during construction. He also said construction work would not take place on weekends and the crew usually works from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., but those hours are flexible and a later start time could be set to accommodate affected neighbors.

Vincent said the proposed plan would take approximately seven months to complete and the team would like to start demolition and construction in the summer months, and then complete the interior work in the fall, hopefully impacting the community's busy season to a lesser degree.

Kelly said plans to accommodate sports schedules and Center programs during the construction period are still being worked out.

The team said it's aware of the Center's $2.5 million budget and does not anticipate exceeding that amount.

The next step for the construction team is to present its plan to the Anna Maria Planning and Zoning Board.