The vision for a community center in St. Joseph is not one-sided.
A community hub that has something for all ages, one with space for the St. Joseph Historical Society, a commercial kitchen, meeting places for senior citizens and youth, and a gym are what some residents want in a community center.
Members of the city’s facilities committee held an open house recently to see just what residents wanted in the new government/community center. To date, only a rough schematic drawing has been provided to show a possible layout for the building. A final design has not been determined but city council members voted Oct. 4 to do more research into the possibility of remodeling the former Kennedy school building for the community center. City Administrator Judy Weyrens said the architect will do a peripheral evaluation of the site. This study will cost about $5,000 and take about three weeks to complete, Weyrens said. Because parking is limited downtown, some residents thought parking at the school building would be a better fit.
About 20 residents packed into the council chambers to learn more about the project and tell officials what they would like to see. St. Joseph residents Ellen Wahlstrom and Ellie Studer wanted to know if space for the St. Joseph Historical Society in a new community center had been considered.
“It’s got the potential,” Wahlstrom said (of providing space for the historical society.) “But it hasn’t been brought up.”
With the number of service organizations within the community, Mary McDonald suggested their presence be considered in the planning for the proposed center.
“I think it would be really important to have storage areas so different organizations can use it,” McDonald said.
Troy Goracke wanted to know about the possibility of adding a library. City council member Dale Wick said the city is behind the city of Sartell on a list of cities awaiting a library.
Randy Schmitz inquired about the possibility of a pool. Some residents suggested the creation of a public parking lot first and then adding a community center in the future.
The existing city hall was built in 1979 as a bank building and converted to city hall in 2000. Options considered in preliminary meetings about a new center include adding on to the existing building; leveling the site and building a two-story facility with the police department on the bottom or on the main level with city offices on another level – something believed to allow for more parking; or leveling the site and finding parking externally and using the entire site for a one-level shop. R.A. Morton, the construction management firm for the project, is working on cost estimates for starting from scratch and adding on to the existing city hall. Many at the meeting were not in favor of adding on to the existing building.
City Council member Renee Symanietz said because parking is limited downtown there has been discussion of building the new center elsewhere. No decision has been made and some council members have spoken against that option.
Symanietz said officials have been careful about the planning for a community center, and the purpose of the open house was to get public input.
“A new community center is very important,” Symanietz said. “It’s important because it was voted on by the public.”
As discussions continue about what a new government center/community center looks like, St. Joseph resident Mary Nimmerfroh encouraged officials to think broadly.
“I just really want a multi-use space,” Nimmerfroh said. “not just a community room.”