Survey Says: Move Forward with Chelsea Community Center

By Melinda Baird,

Chelsea residents have spoken:  they want a community center.

A full 89.9% are very or somewhat supportive of the idea and 83.2% are willing to pay user fees.  Another 68% said Chelsea’s existing facilities and programs are not enough, while 85.2% leave Chelsea for recreational, educational and creative activities.

That’s according to Wade Trim Associates, a local planning firm hired by a volunteer exploratory committee to assess both interest and need of a community center among members of the public.

Committee member Andrew Thomson presented survey results to Chelsea City Council February 1. “You are the very next people in line to hear where we are with this,” Thomson said, adding he first presented results to Chelsea Board of Education a week prior.

Those results indicate residents overwhelmingly want an indoor recreational pool/aquatic center as part of a larger central facility within walking distance to and from downtown.  That facility should include indoor, all-purpose recreational space—something the city is short on given school and community education athletic demands, Thomson said.  It should also house specific programs for teens and tweens, informal meeting and performance space, and studio space for art and music.

“People want one-stop shopping,” Thomson said.

Although still very early in the process, Thomson said the committee envisions a 50,000 to 60,000 square-foot multi-use facility comparable to the City of Lapeer Community Center and Saline Recreation Center.  He ball-parked the price tag at $12,250,000.  Because the goal is to stay within city limits, reuse or redevelopment of an existing structure is likely, Thomson said, with Washington Street Education Center property a serious contender.

Thomson said many of the centers toured by the committee are owned and operated by municipalities.  The committee’s next step is to conduct a market study to determine the exact size and scope of the project.  Then, the task is to build partnerships with community entities such as the school district, hospital, Five Healthy Towns, library and senior center before undergoing the site selection process.

As far as a time frame, Thomson said the committee “would love to keep moving full steam ahead,” but developing partnerships and seeking funding will take time.  The process probably won’t be as quick as the time it took to obtain the feasibility study and needs assessment, he said, noting the committee has been working one and one-half years to this point.

City Manager John Hanifan believes it is time well spent.  “You’re not asking Council for a decision tonight, but if and when that time comes, I know the committee’s research will be very thorough and well thought out,” Hanifan said.

Wade Trim Associates gathered its information over a six-month period through online and paper surveys, Facebook, and a Sounds & Sights festival booth.  The firm also evaluated the city’s recently adopted Parks & Recreation Master Plan and led focus and stakeholder groups consisting of numerous Chelsea organizations and people of all ages.

A public presentation of the findings is scheduled Thursday, February 25 at 7 pm at the WSEC board room, according to Chelsea Community Center Facebook page.


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