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City Council mulls Community Center improvements

Alexander Sinn • Jan 8, 2019 at 9:00 AM

Younger generations are having less weddings, and this trend could spell concern for the future of the Grand Haven Community Center.

The City Council discussed during a work session Monday whether improvements to the Community Center would bring in more rentals of the building, which city leaders say are trending down in recent years.

Council members toured the center in December to view progress on ongoing maintenance work. More upgrades and improvements are being considered, but the council is unsure whether these will bring sufficient returns on investment.

An originally proposed investment of $273,500 was scaled down to two options: a project covering maintenance items only; or maintenance and several upgrades, mostly to the exterior of the building.

The leaner option would cost $181,441 and entail replacing panels throughout the building. A path with a cost of $223,087 would include reworking the steps on the west side of the building, creating an enclosed vestibule to enhance energy efficiency and other new features.

It would be difficult to determine whether the addition of around $40,000 would bring more renters to the location, City Manager Pat McGinnis said.

Char Seise, the city’s community affairs manager, said the center is unique for allowing wedding renters to choose their own catering and other outside services. The building does lack the draw of other lakeside venues, she noted.

The building has seen increased use for expo-type events in recent years, Seise said.

The Community Center was built together with the adjacent library building in 1967. The city spent $4.4 million in 2007 to extensively renovate the center.

Mayor Geri McCaleb said the majority of items being proposed for the center are “wants,” but said there is a need for improvements.

Councilman Mike Fritz said he supports the removal of overgrown trees and replacing a retaining wall on the exterior of the building. He said the aging infrastructure has caused a “maintenance nightmare,” with heavy rains in recent years damaging the foundation of the building.

Councilman Bob Monetza said a more dynamic building could generate interest in other uses, if not weddings.

“Younger generations are still looking for experiences,” he said. “They’re looking for something to do.”

The council agreed on upgrading a public patio space along the east side with round tables and umbrellas. When it comes to bigger ticket items, the council is less certain what level of investment is going to yield return.

“It’s hard to tell what the future’s going to bring,” Councilman Dennis Scott said.

The city staff will create a proposal for design work for the council to vote on at a later date.

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