May 18 2011

CIP Members Support Public Input on Use of 801 Magnolia

The 4 members of the Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) Review Committee appointed by the City Council, 3 liaisons from other committees or organizations, and several members of the public toured the 801 Magnolia building on Monday, May 16th.  Following the tour, Committee Members discussed the desire for public input on potential public uses for the remaining unleased portion of the building.  (The sanctuary and rooms to the north of the sanctuary have been leased for the next ten years to the Piedmont Center for the Arts.)

A number of Committee members wished to solicit public input on the use of this rare available space in Piedmont, mentioning the variety of public uses which had been identified during General Plan discussions 3 to 4 years ago, including a teen study/recreation center and a co-op reading room.  The Committee Chair, and liaison with the Recreation Commission, Leesy Taggart, noted that a number of significant projects were being undertaken in Piedmont for kids and that there were adults and other groups in Piedmont, as well.  CIP Member Ryan Gilbert pointed out that, while the community is looking forward to the new Piedmont Center for the Arts, there had been little opportunity for public input on the use of the space prior to the Council’s decision.  The CIP Committee is charged with “develop(ing) procedures for encouraging and seeking citizen input into the capital budget process.”

These comments were in response to a suggestion from Mark Delventhal, Recreation Director, that the space might be utilized as a City childcare center accommodating 18 children.  He envisioned a new full-day or half-day program which would be in addition to Piedmont’s existing childcare programs:  Tiddlywinks at the Community Hall, the programs in the Recreation Department on Hillside, the program in the Mark Becker designed building at Hampton Field, and the 2 privately run childcare programs offered in the Piedmont Community Church.   On the tour, a member of the public raised the issue of fairness of using the sole available public space in Piedmont to benefit 18 children out of 10,500 residents.

Editor’s Note: If each child in the half or full-day program is entitled to retain his spot for 2 years, approximately 9 new children may be served each year.  Siblings are normally given preference.  It is unclear whether City employees will have preference over residents, or vice-versa, if this program were run by City employees, as envisioned.

Nancy Lehrkind, a CIP Member and founder of Piedmont Center for the Arts (the organization sharing the building), noted cost savings may be attained if renovations are completed by a private group, compared with the city’s cost of doing the work. The staff acknowledged this, and also pointed out the City may not be able to move as quickly due to the City’s competitive bidding requirements. Reserving $75,000 in CIP funding for capital improvements for the unleased portion of 801 Magnolia was discussed, with Chair Taggart noting committee support for two caveats:  that the funds should be “non-use specific” and/or spent after determination of its use with public input and, if the space were utilized by a private group and the funds not needed, the funds be reallocated to other approved CIP projects in order of priority.  The Chair mentioned the CIP Committee as a possible forum for public hearings to receive input from residents. 

The unleased wing of the building consists of a large, light filled, open space (about 30 x 40 feet) with small office rooms at one end and 2 non-ADA compliant bathrooms.  A lift or ramp will be required due to 5 stairs between the front entry and the space.  The possibility was mentioned of using the ADA compliant bathroom being installed by the Arts Center near the sanctuary, rather than remodeling bathrooms in the space for ADA compliance.

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