City Manager Matthew Baumgarten talks to residents about building a new community center and infrastructure changes during an open house Jan. 16 at the current Berkley Community Center.

City Manager Matthew Baumgarten talks to residents about building a new community center and infrastructure changes during an open house Jan. 16 at the current Berkley Community Center.

Photo by Mike Koury


Berkley discusses community center, City Hall replacement

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published January 24, 2018

BERKLEY — The city of Berkley is facing questions as to what to do with its aging community center, City Hall and infrastructure.

To get feedback on these issues and to present possible solutions, more than 100 Berkley residents gathered in the community center Jan. 16 to discuss possible options to replace or repair these buildings and how to fund the improvements.

City Manager Matthew Baumgarten presented the background for the challenges facing all three issues, as well as possible payment options for each item. Design firm Stantec produced potential concepts for a new community center.

A new community center is expected to cost around $15.25 million, which would be paid through a bond proposal. City Hall renovations also would be paid through a bond at an expected cost of $4.5 million. A road millage for infrastructure improvements would tax 2 mills for 10 years, which would generate $1.1 million per year. All three issues would be their own ballot proposals.

Baumgarten said he has heard, at both the open house and from feedback forms, a “very mixed response.”

“I’ve heard a lot of people note how surprisingly affordable the proposals would be, but likewise I heard some of the people say, if you ask them all at the same time, it’s too much of an ask all at once,” he said.

Baumgarten said he’s heard a lot of constructive questions and thought people took advantage of the various stations the city had set up, which covered a possible City Hall redesign; the roads not taken with community center designs and features; the enhanced programming that a rebuilt community center would make possible; one on infrastructure; and one to look at a resident’s own taxable value and see how much the proposals would cost them.

A preliminary site plan design presented at the open house showed a two-story community center, six tennis courts and a large parking area. The final placement of the center, whether it would be in the current building’s place or across the street from it, has yet to be determined, Baumgarten said.

Features in the proposed center include a two-court gym, showers and a locker room, a senior room, a teen room, classrooms, a fitness center, a dance studio and an indoor track.

“There was some questions about what amenities are really necessary inside (the community center),” Baumgarten said. “I’ve had people question the fitness equipment. Some want to see more classroom space, a more dedicated youth space, and then the site plan itself. 

“Does the entryway provide adequate protections and enough proximity for our senior residents to able to easily access the building? Because we know they’re going to be a big user of this. They’re a big user of our existing center. This could only be a better offering for them.”

Another question that some residents asked at the open house was if a new City Hall could be built or designed into a new community center building.

Baumgarten said that option was thought about early on, but there wasn’t enough space for what was needed at both buildings.

“We have a lot of square-footage needs here,” he said. “Not necessarily that of staff at City Hall, but certainly we need a sizable council chambers. We have a lot of our building right now with storage. We retain a large amount of records on-site.”

Natalie Price, a resident who lives close to the current community center and who also teaches a parent-tot class at the center, said she was impressed by the plans.

“In some ways, the community center is an easy sell,” she said. “It’s very clear that we need a space that can better meet the needs of the growing community, and I think that this plan is a great step in that direction.”

While she was excited by the plans presented, Price was disappointed that a pool and an ice arena, which were deemed too costly, weren’t included in the plans.

“There are certain things that I would love. Personally, my son and I used the ice arena when he was little. We took the skating lessons there. We used the rink, but I absolutely understand that it’s not sustainable and that it would increase the budget,” she said.

The PowerPoint presentations and designs from the open house can be found at www.berkleymich.org.