Miami Shores’ Village Council approved moving forward with plans to build a new community center. The council unanimously agreed to consider hiring a community center consultant as part of their strategy in building the new facility.
The decision gives Village Manager Tom Benton the opportunity to begin seeking out contracts to hire a firm to identify the wants and needs of the community, which would then be included in the design of the new building. The consulting company would be responsible for overseeing focus groups, surveying the community and meeting with the council and stakeholders who will use the center.
For the last five years, the village has discussed building a new center to replace the current facility, located at 9617 Park Dr., which was built in the late 1960s. The center is part of a seven- acre athletic complex that includes a field house, soccer fields, basketball courts, among other things. Approximately 90,000 to 100,000 people visit the community center each year.
The community center is currently used for exercise programs including Jazzercise, Pilates and gymnastics while also functioning as multipurpose meeting space for community seminars and workshops.
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“That facility gets a lot of usage,” Benton said. “It’s an important part of the community.”
In the summer, the council held a meeting regarding a proposal for a new community center, but did not move forward with the project. The previous meeting was described as one with a lot of head shaking against the idea.
The discussion of moving forward in a new multimillion dollar project comes as the village’s aquatic center debt could be coming to an end. The aquatic center pool bond is expected to be paid off on April 1, 2029, but could be paid earlier if the council approves dipping into the village’s savings. The 3.2 million dollar bond was originally issued to the village in 1999 when the center was built.
“We’re hoping to pay it off early because we have collected additional revenue towards the bond,” said Benton.
Currently the pool bond is being paid off through a general obligation tax that homeowner residents pay monthly. Homeowner residents pay a $17.63 general obligation bond, which will decrease to $13.91 when the debt is retired.
Benton’s goal for the village would be to pay off the pool bond early so that only two bond issues, for Doctors Charter School and the new community center, would be present.
The idea to build the new facility received immense support from all of the council members. Benton, however, made clear that the discussion just strictly instructed staff to go ahead with the project and whether or not to hire a consulting firm.
“The question is whether or not we want to commit to spending the money to do a good study for a future project like this that’s going to last us hopefully 50 years,” said Councilman Hunt Davis, who was in favor of the idea. “I would much rather us spend the money now and do this properly.”
Davis said that hiring the consultant company would ensure a better facility would be put in place for the community for the next generations. It could add a minimum of six months of research to the estimated two year project.
The council has asked staff to put together a proposal and present it at a future meeting, which Benton predicts would likely happen in January.
“I asked for a proposal, but I don’t have anything yet,” said Benton. “I’m still looking around. I’m checking around to see what the market place holds out there.”