Merriam Community Center needs immediate repairs; longer term upgrades as well, city council is told

The original community center building dates to 1911 and was the first school in Merriam.
The original community center building dates to 1911 and was the first school in Merriam.

The Merriam Community Center needs immediate significant repairs within the next two years “to bring the building up to minimum life-safety and functioning standards,” the city council was told Monday.

The price tag for those immediate repairs is estimated at $375,000 and must be completed in the next two years. “Some pretty serious upgrades need to happen,” councilors were told by the independent team that assessed the condition of the facility. Those immediate needs do not include the replacement of the HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems, all of which are near the end of their lifespans.

“The envelope (of the building) is in great shape,” the consultants said. But, the building has a lot of accessibility issues requiring “some pretty serious upgrades,” including a fire suppression system.

The design team from Susan B. Richards and Associates also laid out three scenarios for how the city might rectify long-term issues with the center. Option A involved doing repairs to the existing building, which has about 30,000 square feet of usable space and 10,000 square feet of crawl spaces. Besides the major repair work, the interior of the building would be rehabilitated for a better space design. The building needs a new roof and regrading to stop water infiltration. Sump pumps inside and outside run continuously, the consultants said. “The basement floods frequently,” said architect Trudy Faulkner.

Option B called for demolition of much of the 1951 addition and replacing it with new fitness area above grade and a new gym above grade and covering the current gym floor to make it a conference area. The community center consists of four buildings: the original 1911 limestone elementary school building, a 1938 gymnasium addition, a 1951 addition with a kitchen and classrooms and a 1989 addition that included the entrance and an elevator/stairs core.

Option C called for building a completely new community center, either at the existing site or at a new site. In the third option, the building would have about 34,000 square feet of usable space, the equivalent of Option B.

“You are going to have some serious failures,” the city was told, if major repairs are not undertaken that are anticipated in the longer-term options. The price for the immediate repairs needs to be added to the cost estimates for Options A and B.

The estimates were Option A – $5,610,000; Option B – $9,765,000; Option C – $15,400,000.

The design team said the interior designs of the options include amenities that people look for today in a community center, including larger meeting space, good fitness facilities and a full gym.

The council is expected to discuss the future of the community center and the options contained in the report during a workshop next Monday.