TREASURE ISLAND — The city's community center is being readied for its first major restoration in 31 years.
The $301,652 project, expected to begin next week, will include improvements to the building's southwest and northwest entries, removal of eroded concrete, new windows and doors, repairs to the roof, exterior painting, ceiling tile replacement and installation of new storage cabinets.
"It is going to be prettier and better," said Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Hayduke. "It will look newer, refreshed."
The renovation is being done by Biltmore Construction and is expected to be completed in four months. The city also is repairing its beach pavilion, which is expected to be completed in May and has finished improvements to its downtown clock tower.
The community center is in constant use during the week for art and fitness classes and meetings of civic associations and clubs. On the weekends, the building is rented out for wedding receptions, graduations, and parties. During the summer, youth camp is held there.
"It is highly utilized," Hayduke said of the building's 4,400-square-foot main hall.
Restoration was first suggested because the entrance towers, part of the building's architectural design, were rusting and the windows were aging.
"It was always a thought that this needed to be done," Hayduke said. New city seals also will be installed at the Park Place and 106th Avenue entrances.
There had been some concern that because of the age of the building, asbestos removal might be needed, Hayduke said. But a sampling of ceiling tiles and paint by an engineering firm showed no evidence of asbestos.
An estimated $131,712 was allocated for the project and the City Commission decided to fund the remaining $169,939 from the general fund, which will be paid back next year through the local option sales tax fund.
Mayor Bob Minning said center renovations "are certainly needed."
The possibility of expanding the community center in the future through a public/private partnership might be a possibility, Minning said.
Officials with Walgreens, on Gulf Boulevard adjacent to the community center, have mentioned an interest in remodeling the store and perhaps creating a parking structure, which Minning said could potentially connect to the community center. The Bilmar Beach Resort across the street is also interested in expanding its parking.
"It's pure speculation right now, but it is a concept that could allow us to expand the (community center), maybe to two floors," he said.
With plans by the city to redevelop downtown going ahead, parking needs must be addressed, Minning said. "This could be a start," he added.