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Montgomery Twp. Eyeing $9.6M Community Center

Kimmel Bogrette Architecture + Site presented Monday night proposed plans for a community and recreation center at Stump and Horsham roads. Township Manager Larry Gregan outlined the potential financial plan to pay for it all

Montgomery Twp. Eyeing $9.6M Community Center Montgomery Twp. Eyeing $9.6M Community Center Montgomery Twp. Eyeing $9.6M Community Center Montgomery Twp. Eyeing $9.6M Community Center Montgomery Twp. Eyeing $9.6M Community Center Montgomery Twp. Eyeing $9.6M Community Center

Montgomery Township Supervisors have a vision for a regional community and recreation center at Stump and Horsham roads, presented a public meeting Monday by contracted firm Kimmel-Bogrette Architecture + Site.

The vision is this: a 39,000-square-foot, two-story facility with a gymnasium with two full basketball courts, two flex-space community rooms with a kitchen, a child watch area, a weight/cardio room, a youth lounge, a cafe, two exercise rooms, a suspended walking/jogging track, three multipurpose studio spaces and a senior citizen activity room.

Things the vision doesn't include: a pool, library space and a skate park.

The township plans to fund the proposed project for 21 years without any need for a tax increase. 

"," said principal Martin Kimmel. Kimmel explained that on Nov. 8 supervisors were presented with a large, medium and small community center option.

The estimated  — that includes hard costs of about $7.8 million, soft costs of $1.4 million and contigencies of $752,000.

Estimated annual expenses at such a facility: $979,055.

Estimated annual revenues: $865,046.

That leaves a recovery rate of 88 percent. 

Read about Montgomery Township's potential financing plan here.

The issue: the center will only be financially viable if the township looks beyond its boundaries to help finance the center with memberships. It doesn't meet a recommend financial viability population estimate of 25,000 users.

"We have a great site. There's no public entity like that near here. We don't have anything currently like this in the township," Kimmel said. "The demographics are good in the township."

Kimmel-Bogrette views the center in the far south end of the parcel at the intersection on top of a hill, providing "tremendous views" of the township. There are 160 spaces planned for the site.

The exterior plan includes a basketball court, a tot lot, a pavilion, and a small cul-de-sac for the Montgomery County Bookmobile.

There is also a large greenspace area on the plans.

"It can be a formal township outdoor greenspace, and you can have ceremonies and civil events," Kimmel said. "You can utilize the building and give others reasons to come on the site."

Kimmel said, of the interior amenities, the community room space alone could offer more events in one year than there are days in a year. The kitchen, he said, could support public and community nutrition and cooking classes.

The partial second floor, served by elevator and stairs, would have a 3-lane track that overlooks an opening to the gymnasium below. 

"One of the most popular things will be the walking/jogging track. It attracts seniors to occupy the building at all times of the day," Kimmel said.

So what about competition with nonprofits like the YMCA and for-profits like L.A. Fitness, Total Body Fitness and Retro Fitness.

"When we develop the public facility in the township, we want to bring wellness to a market sector that is currently not served," Kimmel said. "Those who don't go to a YMCA or an L.A. Fitness tend to come here."

Kimmel said there are challenges in the area, specifically three YMCAs that are very close to Montgomery Township and operate on a similar model.

"We have to be careful what we do there," Kimmel said.

Resident Amanda Griffies, who is employed by North Penn YMCA, said she was concerned about programming at the center.

"I'm a little bit concerned on the affect this will have on other facilities in the area," Griffies said.

Griffies said the township, businesses and nonprofits should work together and look at reducing duplication of services.

She hoped the Lansdale Collaborative Project would alleviate her concerns on the impact of the community center project.

"I encourage you to talk to the hospital and the YMCA about programming for fitness and older adults," she said, referencing the possibility of outsourcing programming to those organizations.

Resident Jeff Adams disapproved of the proposed entrance to the facility, located yards from the signalized intersection of Stump and Horsham roads. The proposed entrance was previously sited in a former development plan that never came to light, prior to the township's purchase.

Kimmel said the sited plans are not applicable to this project; the original site plan was for a more intensive use that had site traffic which was incompatible with the current traffic flow.

Township Manager Larry Gregan said a new traffic study would need to be done at the site. Meanwhile, it will take about a year before the traffic pattern from the new Route 202 Parkway "settles down."

Resident Dr. Sue Ann Miller asked supervisors to think of the youth and teens and put in a library.

Another resident, Karen Martinkovic, asked what if the township builds it, and more than 25,000 people don't come. She had concerns of attracting and maintaining usage from outside the township.

Supervisor Joe Walsh said the firms hired to plan the center — Kimmel Bogrette, and recreation center programming firm Ballard*King — are experienced in their fields and would not recommend a plan for a center that was not feasible.

"We heard the call for a community center. We haven't committed to anything," Walsh said. "The goal is to maintain debt service without having to raise taxes. We're going to try to make this as self-sufficient as possible."

Supervisors saw "a window of opportunity," he said. The property, he said, landed in their lap and the township bought it for $1.5 million.

"We are pushing and trying to make this work, and make it work in a fashion that isn't going to raise taxes," Walsh said. "We have to chew the numbers a little more."

Chairwoman Candyce Chimera said the township is filling spaces that it doesn't currently have elsewhere.

"There's a need for it. We're relying on the people that want to use those spaces," she said.

Kimmel said it's usually the other way around: Municipalities want to restrict use only to its own community.

"The market lines in townships, especially in Pennsylvania, are so blurred that people cross township lines and school district lines all the time. Naturally, the demographics of the area have huge demand and would be a financial mistake to restrict use only to Montgomery Township," he said. 

"They will come and you won't spend time advertising to them. They will come and find it as soon as services are available," Kimmel said.

Resident Bob Sykes requested supervisors put the project on a referendum at the spring election.

"(Supervisors should give) the township people the opportunity to say 'yay' or 'nay' before you proceed," Sykes said.

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