City officials, youth give input on Auburn’s planned teen/community center

Architects the City has hired to begin work on the proposed $9 million teen center at Les Gove Park got a little insight Tuesday afternoon into the vision Auburn's elected officials and local youth have for it.

Architects the City has hired to begin work on the proposed $9 million teen center at Les Gove Park got a little insight Tuesday afternoon into the vision Auburn’s elected officials and local youth have for it.

“I’d like to see us work on this as the center of the community,” said Councilman Claude DaCorsi. “I think we really need to take this to a level that hasn’t been done before. Together, we can create a one-of-the-kind, within-budget building and give us the opportunity to really explore the stratosphere with this and see what we can do differently.”

Among the ideas members of the Auburn Youth Council suggested was having a counselor on hand to help teens work through personal issues.

The youth council also talked about having an espresso bar for teens, giving the space a coffee house feel.

Auburn Parks staff encouraged that idea, noting the espresso bar could be used to train teens how to be baristas, perhaps giving them a head start on a job at a local coffee stand.

Daryl Faber, director of Parks, Arts and Recreation, said although the City may not want to get into the business of providing the counselor, for various reasons, a space for an organization such as Auburn Youth Resources to come in and help could be created.

The discussion, led by Stan Lokting, ARC Architects principal, was a precursor to the design phase of the project.

“With the gym, senior center, youth center and community center, we will have close to 60,000 square feet of really community center uses in one location, pretty central to the city,” Lokting said. “It’s not only a matter of designing it expertly but also getting the word out about the opportunities available there.”

Lokting added that he hopes the building can be completed by June 2016.

The project, as proposed, remodels the existing Parks, Arts and Rec offices on the north end of the park into a youth center and adds an adjacent community center.

Preliminary plans for the teen-youth center call for:

• a dedicated hang-out space for kids;

• a computer lab for homework help, SAT prep, resumé and job assistance, college and trade school applications, training and more;

• shared game space;

• a fitness room;

• office space for teen staff;

• an updating and remodeling of the kitchen to create a teaching kitchen for youth and teen programs, which would also serve the community center as a commercial kitchen option.

Preliminary plans for the community center project call for:

• a large, three-bay community room to accommodate events for about 300 people, addressing the demand for meeting and banquet space. Along with physical support spaces such as storage and a warming kitchen, the commercial kitchen that is already there would be available for the community center and the youth-teen center;

• a lobby lounge to be the main reception area for the community center and the youth-teen center. During private center rentals, a separate entrance would provide access to the center. This area would be designed to serve all populations for social gatherings, informal activities, people waiting for transportation and registering for classes, activities and rentals;

• an outdoor patio area into the park from the multi-purpose rooms;

• two multi-use classrooms on the second floor available for rental and accommodating up to 30 people at a time for recreation, education and enrichment classes, birthday parties and senior classes;

• office space for Parks, Arts and Recreation staff on the second floor, and offices in the youth/teen center for youth and teens.

Discussions at Tuesday’s brainstorming session centered on integrating the design of the new building into the existing surroundings of the park, and designing the project to meet LEED silver certification for environmentally friendly construction.

Lokting explained that to stay within budget and prepare for the future, the building would be built with infrastructure that can accommodate the addition of eco-friendly features, such as solar panels, in the future.

Additionally, the discussion revealed hopes that the center could become an ethnically-diverse, intergenerational meeting place, where all Auburn residents feel welcome and have the opportunity to mingle.

According to Lokting, the hazardous materials, site and geotechnical surveys are underway, and he plans to have the initial design ready the next time he appears before council, at a time yet to be determined.