Two years ago the Roeland Park Community Center appeared doomed for the wrecking ball.
It was saved in part because of a groundswell of community opposition. And this week the City Council appears to have come full circle when it agreed to move forward with phase one of improvements to address deferred maintenance and other functional improvements to the center.
The improvements include exterior paint, improved drainage for the roof and parking lot, modifying the parking stalls, replacing tile floor in a bathroom and more.
The MPR room, or large auditorium, at the community center is also expected to undergo several changes. The room, which is the largest and most frequently rented room, will receive a new display screen, projector and sound system. It will also receive a new HVAC system. City officials noted that starting work this spring – before the busy summer rental season begins – would be ideal. The existing HVAC system is believed to be about 28-years-old system and has had numerous makeshift repairs.
The city also approved a feasibility study for the city engineer to study a trail connection between the community center and Nall Park.
The overall work is expected to cost about $51,000. The city will pay for it by using sales tax dollars including about $60,000 that was saved last year when community center roof repairs came in well under budget.
The improvements were a welcome sign for some City Councilors including Becky Fast, who sent an email to her constituents to celebrate the news this week.
“Many residents have been fearful for the past two years that the Council would proceed with tearing it down,” she said.
The demolition controversy started in 2013 when a developer proposed building senior housing for low and moderate income residents at the site. He also proposed tearing down the community center and rebuilding it at his expense.
The plan was backed by former Mayor Adrienne Foster.
However, citizens packed the meeting to protest the decision. They were outraged that the plan had been pushed through without public input or a formal bidding process.
The change of heart, Fast said, shows just how powerful citizen input can be.
“The governing body moving forward with improvements is definitely a departure from the past, Fast said, and highlights the importance of citizen input at meetings and through our strategic planning process.”