Youth Center Design Met With Cheers; Could Cost $13 – $14.6 M

Architect’s rendering of the front of the proposed township youth center, targeted for a parcel on Lewis Street.

The long-discussed township youth center could be open for business by September of 2019.

That was the projection Feb. 13 by Martin Kimmel, one of the architects contracted by the township to design the facility, which is targeted for a 40,000-square-foot parcel on Lewis Street.

The proposed 25,000-square-foot, three-story building could cost between $13 million and $14.6 million, Kimmel said.

Mayor Phil Kramer said the council is looking at different ways to pay for the center’s construction, including bonding for it.

The design received rave reviews from Township Council members and township residents.

As designed by Kimmel Borgette, the proposed building would have spaces for a variety of uses, including counseling, fitness and a library.

There is also a gymnasium in the plan, which could also be used for community events such as dances.

The design also includes two community gardens, and outside spaces for playing and other activities.

Kimmel said the architects wanted to “make it a place where everyone in the neighborhood wants to be.”

Kimmel said the design team began the process thinking it would be a 30,000-square-foot building, but “we used a lot of spaces for dual purposes, which allowed us to cut down on the overall size of the site.”

Kimmel called the proposed building’s third floor an “aspirational space.” He said a set of criteria could be established to determine who would be allowed to access the third floor.

Kimmel said if the design process were to start in March, it could be finished by September. Construction, he said, could be completed in a year, “if you progress with some sense of urgency.”

Reaction to the plan was unanimously positive.

“There’s been such a positive buzz about this,” said former Township Councilwoman Roz Sherman,who worked on the project’s design committee. “It will be such a marvelous addition to the community The use of space is so imaginative. Beautiful, spacious, the children are going to love it, as well as the adults.”

“This is amazing for me to see,” said Rebekah Solomon, a member of the township Recreation Advisory Committee.

Keith Stewart, the rec committee’s chairman, said “I think it’s amazing that the possibilities that building can have, and the number of kids in the community that need it.”

In response to several residents’ questions, Township Manager Robert Vornlocker said the township is looking into ways to provide off-site parking. He said the center was conceived with the idea that most of teh children using it would walk, ride their bicycles or get dropped off, but parking would be needed to special events.

“We’re going to continue to explore the opportunities of parking in the neighborhood that we may be able to create,” he said.

Johnny Tibbs, who has long lobbied for a youth center, said the plan “looks beautiful.”

“I am very very proud of it, it looks good,” he said. “I think better times are coming because of it.”

Township Councilwoman Kimberly Francois, (D-At Large) who led this latest effort at buoding teh youth center, said “there’s a lot of leadership here, a lot of commitment here, and I’m just so grateful to be a part of this team, a part of this governing body.”

“Great job, great concept, love it, love it, love it,” said Deputy Mayor Shanel Robinson. She said that she was most concerned about “lighting and safety.”

“Very amazing,” said Mayor Phil Kramer, who added that he’s interested in hearing about the center’s operating costs.

“This is amazing and it’s the answer to a prayer I made when I first got on council, we lost two young people, and I said we have to do something, none of our kids are expendable,” said Councilman Rajiv Prasad (D-At Large). “This is the answer.”

Councilman James Vassanella, (D-Ward 5) said he thought the center was going to be such an “astronomical success” that the council should be proactive in thinking about parking.

He also suggested some kind of area with a cover because, he said, “I see a lot of drop off and pick up with this.”

“This is really exciting, I can’t wait to see it,” said Councilman Will Galtieri (D-Ward 2).

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