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Residents Divided Over Roxbury Park Master Plan

The proposal for the new community center at Roxbury Park would include a gymnasium, as well as space for teens and seniors.

Residents Divided Over Roxbury Park Master Plan Residents Divided Over Roxbury Park Master Plan Residents Divided Over Roxbury Park Master Plan Residents Divided Over Roxbury Park Master Plan Residents Divided Over Roxbury Park Master Plan Residents Divided Over Roxbury Park Master Plan Residents Divided Over Roxbury Park Master Plan Residents Divided Over Roxbury Park Master Plan Residents Divided Over Roxbury Park Master Plan Residents Divided Over Roxbury Park Master Plan

A presentation of Phase One of the proposed Roxbury Park Master Plan turned into a heated discussion Wednesday with the 100 residents in attendance split as to whether they are for or against the project.

Phase One would include a new community center with features like a gymnasium, expanded library space, improved meeting rooms, a study room and game room for teens, a senior room with a patio, a café with vending machines and additional parking. The cost of the project is estimated at more than $14.5 million.

Director of Community Services Steve Zoet welcomed residents to the meeting, which was held in the park’s current facility. He introduced landscape architect Patrick Hirsch of Hirsch & Associates, Inc. and building architect Steve Albert of The Albert Group. Hirsch and Albert presented a slide show of drawings depicting the proposed community center and other amenities.

A walkway would extend from the entrance to the park, through the community center and then out into the park itself, Albert said.

“We have the big areas like the gymnasium on the left side of the walkway and the smaller areas like the library, fitness area, meeting rooms and senior area on the right,” Albert said. “Administrative offices will be on the second floor so that staff can have a view of the park.”

The study room and the game room for teens would also be upstairs, he said.

Beverly Hills resident Ken Goldman wanted assurance from the city that the new facility would not be used for weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs or conferences that would inundate the area with people.

“We need some assurance that we’re not going to have gatherings of 500 people or more here every weekend,” Goldman said.

Zoet said using the facility for events like that is not even on the city’s radar right now.

“I don’t see this as anything but a community recreation center,” Zoet said. “It is not designed for weddings or that type of event.”

Harvey Jason, who represents a group that meets at the park three times a week thinks the new community center is a great idea.

“Thank you for the terrific presentation,” Jason said. “I would like to give you an endorsement from our group because everything sounds wonderful.”

Marilyn Gallup wanted to know why a survey sent out to 18,000 residents in November 2006 only asked which features people wanted for the new facility, not whether they wanted the new facility in the first place. Of the 1,707 people who responded, 345 said they wanted a gymnasium and 182 said they wanted a rock wall, Gallup said.

“It was very clear by this survey that the residents don’t want these features, yet here they are in your drawings,” Gallup said.

Hirsch said that, in addition to the surveys, countless public meetings have been held over the past five years in an effort to assess what members of the community want.

Rose Norton said she wanted more green space in the community.

“This is not a community center,” she said. “It’s a sports complex and we don’t need it.”

Zoet noted that the new facility will actually allow more green space at the park because it has two stories and therefore a smaller footprint.

Beverly Vista eighth grader Kylie Haywood, 13, spoke up at the meeting because she felt that her age group was not being adequately represented.

“Speaking for teens, we love this idea,” Haywood said. “Kids will have the opportunity to come someplace safe and do the activities they love to do.”

Vivien Benjamin wanted to know why the current facility could not just be remodeled.

“Why don’t you just do a facelift,” she said. “It’s a memorial park and we like it this way.”

Hirsch said that because of today’s building codes, the current facility, built in 1958, would cost an estimated $13 million to remodel and bring up to code, nearly the same price as building anew.

Phase One of the proposed Roxbury Park Master Plan must still go back to the City Council for final approval.

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