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Design Commission reviews site plan for new rec center

Monday, November 29, 2010 by Kimberly Reeves

The initial site plan for the North Austin Recreation Center, a partnership between the city and the YMCA, surfaced at the Design Commission last week.


The 36,000-square-foot facility was part of the 2006 bond package.


Marc Shruben, who serves as the project manager on the city side of the project, was at the Design Commission last week with the YMCA’s James Fink and architect Robert Burns of Studio 8 Architects, who presented the site’s parameters.


As Shruben outlined for the commission, Studio 8 was picked in May 2008 to be the architect on the project. By August, a feasibility study was initiated, a study that got as far as the site survey, including tree and topographic features. Shruben said the site was purchased with the goal of “stitching together” city facilities.


The facility will be located at the intersection of Mearns Meadow Boulevard and Rutland Drive. The YMCA proffered a joint venture proposal to the city in 2009, which was approved by Council last July. This new North Austin Recreation Center, which is still on the drawing boards, will replace the current North Park Branch.


All significant city-backed projects now come to the Design Commission. In the case of the North Austin Recreation Center, one of the aspects that will be of the greatest interest to the Design Commission is the city’s goal to link the Little Walnut Creek Library with the recreation center and the nearby Quail Creek Park. All of the area is served by mass transit.


“It’s a good site for using exterior spaces, whether it’s a community garden or a playing field,” said Chair Bart Whatley. “I can really see the potential of lining up the recreation center with the library and Quail Creek Park.”


This early in the conceptual process, no specifics have been laid out for how the facilities will connect, although trails seem a likely option to create one cohesive unit. As Shruben and Burns explained to the commission, the site itself has flood plain and curb cut limitations that will push the recreation facility onto Rutland Drive, with trails linking the three facilities.


The recreation center itself is expected to be typical of most YMCA facilities, with gym space and an indoor pool, as well as space for community meetings. The project will require 75 parking spaces, but it’s likely to need more, Burns predicted.


Commissioners praised the city for starting the input process from the Design Commission early, before schematics are complete. Commissioners signed off on the concept with the specific request that the project elevations come back in a month or so, with more specifics on connections.


Commissioners chose not to appoint a project review committee but likely will appoint a three-member panel when the project comes back with elevations.

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