Some concerned residents are trying to stop the City of Normandy Park from demolishing its Rec Center, which has been in use next to City Hall for over 30 years.

At the Feb. 9, 2021, the city council passed Resolution #966, which grants “authority to the City Manager to execute any and all contracts related to the safe demolition and subsequent required modifications to the existing city hall.”

The current City Hall building is 11,000 square feet, and houses city operations, including the police department. The city says that all of those facilities are “nearing the end of the building life cycles.”

“At the request of outgoing City Manager Mark Hoppen, the city council voted, quietly and unanimously, to demolish our beloved Community Recreational Center this spring!” opponents said.

However, the city says that residents have been engaged in the design process through a variety of means.

“In January (2020), before the design team began their studies, the community was invited to an open house in the existing community room,” the city said. “The design team met with residents to hear their concerns and goals for the project directly. Two public council meetings were held via teleconference to update the community on the master plan and solicit feedback. These public meetings were supplemented with several meetings with the project steering committee to help synthesize community feedback. In addition, yellow tags were available for residents to contribute questions or comments to be recorded by the design team.”

“This comes as a great surprise to us all after we banded together to save the Rec Center in 2019 from being destroyed, and united in demanding the City Council to have a plan in place before taking such a dramatic step,” the opposing group, which calls itself “Don’t Wreck the Rec,” said.

City staff recommends demolishing and replacing the site with irrigation and grass for the interim, which “will allow the City time to complete a site plan for future Civic Center facilities and apply for grants for those outdoor recreation structures,” the city said.

Organizers say they “definitely have (the city’s) attention, as we have been called and spoken in person with several Councilmembers as well as the Mayor. With 172 comments so far (and counting), we want to take this opportunity to list the things that we believe need to happen to move this forward in a positive direction.”

According to those opposing the city’s decision, during the past 30+ Years the Rec Center has served as a home to over:

    • 2,500 students through martial arts Programs,
    • 7,000+ children taught through dance programs
    • 1,350+ children educated and loved through the local Preschool

“The council believes they have a ‘plan’ in place, with some preliminary concept drawings and wishlists that include rebuilding a Rec center AND a city hall?” organizers said. “With the city hall being so ‘safe’ compared to the dangerous Rec center, (per their reports) we are confused as to why the City Hall is included in a new build, which almost doubles the cost, and gives them time to stall because they would need to come up with more money, (i.e. new higher taxes, which would result in higher rents from those who want to use the building, resulting in higher costs for programs, etc.). While the Mayor assures us that we are taking Baby steps to get where the problem is, after our 2019 ‘intervention’ the city should have been doing giant leaps towards a solution because the current rec center does need to come down at some point. No one is disagreeing with them there. It is time (and has been for over 10 years+ that this issue keeps coming back), and we want to know why money hasn’t been properly put aside these past 10 years, and why we are still in the same boat as the last 2 times they tried to Wreck the Rec down.”

Here is what opponents want to see happen:

    • “We do not want to see the old Rec center torn down UNTIL the community can see that the TOP PRIORITY of the city council is the well-being of our Children and Seniors, and can provide a place for programs sports and gatherings to begin again after an entire year of closures and isolation in Normandy Park,
    • “FULL TRANSPARENCY about their “Plans” and agenda to replace the soon-to-be-demolished Recreational center, and it should be reflected (and Prioritized in the Estimated Future plans of Expenditures for the city.
      Allowing the public to have more say in what kind of building we need/want with a community committee oversight, and be presented with 2-3 options, their costs per household, and what transitional accommodations can be provided, if possible, to HELP PROGRAMS CONTINUE UNABATED.
    • “We want to see a REASONABLE TIMELINE provided. No more lofty or vague promises!
    • “WE WANT TO HELP with the campaign to raise funds (Not our taxes) and have this be a community-led initiative that we can all be proud of!
    • “We want to see the creation of a functional Recreational Program like other cities have that will help bring in more revenue, more programs and enhance the quality of life for families and individuals who use and rely on the center for their healthy and well-being.”

“It would be possible to rebuild city hall in the same space from the ground up, beginning with a driven pile foundation base to account for up to 13 feet of soils subject to liquefaction,” the city said. “This would not be a substantial change in configuration from the current City Hall configuration. At 11,000 sq. ft. the construction cost for this alternative is $5,533,000 with soft costs of 50%, in current dollars $8,299,500 of project cost.”

The current conceptual design effort for replacement of these facilities includes a recreation center or recreation outdoor space, government offices, and police station that can be phased, value-engineered as to cost, or altered, some or all of which may be necessary.

The opposing initiative is supported by the concerned neighbors of Highline Good Neighbors.

Here’s what the city included in its Jan. 26 council agenda packet:

Why is it being called a Civic Center?
The term City Hall usually refers strictly to government offices. The word civic refers to the duties and activities of citizens in their town. In the last century, incorporated and unincorporated areas often built civic centers for socials, athletics and recreation, and for community decision-making. Because of this, the term Civic Center has been used to both characterize this design effort and to respect the historic purposes of Normandy Park. Nevertheless, the citizens of Normandy Park could ultimately call the facility whatever makes them most comfortable.

Why and how was the city hall location selected?
The City Council considered the Marvista Park and the City Hall Park sites. The City Hall site was ultimately selected as the chief venue for active indoor and outdoor recreation in the city, as the site most frequently utilized by the largest number of people in Normandy Park, and as a location where the neighborhood has learned to cope with these patterns of use, including traffic patterns.

Did this conceptual design process start from scratch?
No, Miller Hull Architects considered previous citizen Facilities Task Force spatial information. The steering committee explored these spatial needs with the architects to determine the best City Hall Park siting options for a future recreation center, government offices, and police station, although the assessed spatial needs are valid anywhere.

The next Normandy Park City Council meeting will be Tuesday, Mar. 9, 2021; more info here.