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Local Architect's Senior Center Bid Embraced by City Council

Members choose Chris Ackerman's proposal, despite a selection committee's preference for a San Diego firm's plan.

Local Architect's Senior Center Bid Embraced by City Council

Architect Chris Ackerman won the right to work on the first phase of Coronado’s senior center project, edging out a proposal offered by a San Diego firm.

The Hanna Gabriel Wells Group was deemed the most qualified by a selection committee, but the hearts of the City Council and many others were with Ackerman, a long-time resident. The vote was unanimous.

After he prevailed, a cheer went up and people crowded around Ackerman, whose $119,000 bid was the runner-up in the committee's recommendations. The wellspring of support overwhelmed him.

“It was a humbling thing,” he said. “I knew a few people were coming to support me, but I had no idea there would be that many.”

Some 35 people were there, according to City Clerk Linda Hascup, who took a head count at the request of one of Ackerman’s supporters.

Among them were former Councilman Phil Monroe and almost the entire cultural and arts establishment.

“His home address means something to me,” said Susan Keith, who serves on the board of the Coronado Historical Association. “He has to stay in this community. He has to build something that we’ll all enjoy. If he doesn’t, he’d get an ear full.”

She was joined by Doug St. Denis and Heidi Wilson of the Cultural Arts Commission and Laura Crenshaw of the Historic Resources Commission. All have worked with Ackerman over the years. 

He has an “unfailing respect for Coronado and its story,” St. Denis told the council. She also reminded members that Ackerman worked on the senior center project pro bono for a year and a half.

“This job is his. It is engraved on his heart. It will be his legacy,” she said.

The selection committee determined that the Ackerman team’s senior specialist didn’t have the breadth of experience of the other firm. The plans submitted were for conceptual design, programming and site development; the finalists were chosen from eight bids.

Hanna Gabriel Wells, which offered a lower bid, $102,000, listed some 30 projects, while Ackerman’s only listed one, giving the San Diego firm the depth to spot future trends, the committee reasoned.

“They not only can us tell what we know, but what we don’t know,” said recreation director Linda Rahn, who served on the committee.

Ackerman countered that his consultant, Robert Coffee, had built seven senior centers in Southern California.

In the end, the council opted for local knowledge.

“The real point here is that this senior center is supposed to reflect this community,” Mayor Casey Tanaka said. “We want someone who knows Coronado. Chris has been here since the beginning. He has the best chance of connecting with the community.”

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