I have always thought that transparency in local government and active engagement with as much of the public as practical leads to better outcomes. I believe the best time to communicate is early and often – it does not have to wait until everything is set, in fact, that would be far too late!
The latest updates on the proposed fitness center at the new Tri-County Mall re-development just shows this in practice.
The recent community engagement meeting this past April 13 City Administration presented several updates to the previous fitness center proposal – so many positive updates that can be directly linked to feedback given by the community!
The latest floor-plan:
Unlike the first proposal plan this new one adds a designated “Community Room” and “Family Game Room” (at the loss of one of the multi-purpose room / fitness rooms and a reduction in the entrance lobby size).
and the most exciting update:
A Child-watch area and indoor playground!
These are all great additions to the proposed center!
As has been mentioned many times throughout this process the proposed move and design elements are all subject to change. There are so many questions that need to be addressed from the economics and timing side of things as I mentioned in previous posts including:
- The DORA area (open container alcohol at the Mall site) is still open for discussion. Establishing a DORA in the area helps the development and City in a number of ways including additional liquor licenses being made available and easier transitions between establishments at the site – as well as additional entertainment options for concerts and other events at the development. It is worth noting that the DORA boundaries and hours can all be updated by City Council even after they are established. The outdoor drinking privileges can also be suspended for special event – say if there was an event targeting younger folks or families where the DORA may discourage folks from attending.
- Traffic impact studies and inter-connectivity with the site is still a work in progress. I have heard comments like – the area around the mall was developed to accommodate the mall at holiday periods so no issue there – this type of comment misses the point. When the mall was fully occupied traffic would back up onto the expressway and the traffic today makes crossings at 747 and Kemper a scary prospect. However, if we are able to get commitments to build out sidewalks, protected bike lanes, and other safety measures for busy intersections having the center at the development might be a powerful prompt for wider connectivity throughout our and neighboring communities. This might be a good use for some of the TIF funds mentioned at the meeting for funding.
- City Administration offers several points on the “Value” the City would get out of such a move. There is certainly not enough information yet on the costs and risks and I suspect we won’t be able to really make a determination there until we get closer to a ‘final draft’ proposed design and a proposed lease document. This is the biggest challenge I see in the near term because so much is fluid and evolving with the site. While not as flashy as pictures of new facilities doing the work to forecast out the development timeline (the mall as well as other developments in Springdale) along side resident increases, TIF revenue, startup costs for the center, and run costs (and well as forecasting redevelopment plans for the existing site) will be essential to determining if such a move is even possible. For example: if the new fitness center opens in December of 2024 we have to account for maintenance at the current facility through that time, as well as equipment purchases and staffing changes for the new location. That may be offset over time (TIF payments scale over time as the value increases at the new development and also pay in arrears so any new money from the site won’t be available until the following year or later.)
I also believe that the new revenue the City would get could also be used to build not just a splash park but also a new aquatic center at the current Community Center location… keep in mind the fitness center membership being proposed for the new development users would also get them access to the rest of the City rec facilities. If permitted (keep in mind I am not an attorney – this would need to be reviewed) why couldn’t we put together a master facilities plan that showed the fitness center moving to the new location then once established (say 1-3 years in) once the TIF money is secured update the current facility – that we would have maintained for outdoor fields – build the outdoor Olympic sized pool and sun deck that we would be losing.
This would be a net positive increase in fitness and community opportunities which all tie back to the re-development.
What do you think? Let your elected officials know!
email and phone numbers of all your City Council members are online – https://www.springdale.org/member-profiles.aspx
City Administration as well –