With work finally underway on the new community center, Burlingame officials selected which features and amenities could be afforded as they attempted to balance the intent to build a modern facility against the rising cost of construction.
The Burlingame City Council approved designs for the new center which included photovoltaic panels, a movable platform, a sprung wood floor that absorbs shocks for the community hall, an emergency generator and plans for a green roof while forgoing construction of seven additional underground parking spaces, according to video of the meeting Monday, July 1.
The decision arrived as officials seek to control costs and keep the budget near the $50 million price tag, which is already substantially more than the neighborhood of $38 million to $41 million which was projected when the facility was first proposed.
Parks and Recreation Director Margaret Glomstad acknowledged the difficulty officials have faced in attempting to keep costs low, as price cuts have already been made around the edges of the design effort to assure the city can afford the project for which the budget floated to nearly $52 million last fall.
“We’ve been working hard to reduce overall costs, which has been hard,” said Glomstad.
Work started on the first phase of the project late last month, when crews broke ground on construction of the new sports courts, playground and small picnic area near Washington Park. Looking ahead to the next stage of building, Glomstad said officials are planning to put the facility out to bid in January with an eye on beginning construction on the facility in March 2020.
With a decision to begin issuing requests for construction proposals looming on the horizon, councilmembers faced hard choices on specific design elements which could add comfort and functionality to the new facility but also push the rising overall price even higher.
“These are tough decisions and a lot of work goes into it,” said Vice Mayor Emily Beach, regarding the nearly $1.1 million worth of amenities recommended by designers and officials.
Ultimately, councilmembers agreed to split to cost differential in proposed add-ons by going ahead with drafting plans including features intended to improve the center’s energy efficiency with photovoltaic panels and a green roof; operations with a platform which can be moved indoors or outdoors; emergency preparedness with a generator which can power much of the ground floor in case the facility is used for staging following a natural disaster; and comfort with a sprung wood floor that’s designed to be easier on the joints.
Such options were pursued in lieu of constructing seven more underground parking spaces, which were expected to cost about $470,000. The facility is designed to offer 84 parking spots between underground and surface lots, which meets the city’s design requirements.
The facility is planned as a two-story building, expected to span almost 36,000 square feet at the site of the current recreation center, 850 Burlingame Ave. Beyond the new building, the site will include new playgrounds, sports courts, outdoor event space and picnic area.
The project is largely financed with revenue generated by a recent sales tax hike, but Mayor Donna Colson noted a separate community fundraising campaign was recently launched with hopes of generating an additional $2.5 million to pay for additional facility amenities. The project budget also includes an additional roughly $7 million set aside of contingencies and cost escalations, which could pay toward the overall cost depending on the construction bids received.
To address rising costs, Councilman Michael Brownrigg also recommended taking advantage of the favorable loan environment, which he suggested could help officials better afford the center, so long as they act swiftly to lock in a desirable rate. He said such a decision would ultimately make a greater financial difference than cutting costs around the edge of the project.
With the variety of additional financing opportunities available, Colson advocated for officials to move ahead with designs which include preferred features rather than developing a new facility short on amenities.
“We cannot neglect the overall health and infrastructure needs of our community because there is a confluence of nagging financial needs,” she said.
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