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New community center options considered

By Grace Lovins


With ‘aging in place’ and senior support increasingly a focus in Birmingham, city commissioners discussed the city’s future senior and community center during the Monday, March 4, workshop and regular meeting.


Back in July 2023, the city purchased the former YMCA building, located at 400 E. Lincoln, intending for it to serve as the future senior and community center, including a home for Birmingham NEXT – a nonprofit, multi-community organization serving individuals ages 50 and older. Other ideas about what the 40,000 square foot building could house have circulated, including a possible relocation for the city’s parks and recreation department and police department.


Commissioners also recently accepted a proposal from Norr, LLC architecture and engineering firm to conduct a facility assessment and develop conceptual designs for the building. The purpose of the workshop, according to city manager Jana Ecker, is to discuss what type of oversight management the commission wants to proceed with the project.


Ecker said there are three types of oversight management the commission could pursue: an ad hoc steering committee, an owner’s representative or an executive management team. She said the committee would oversee all the different steps of the project, but the commission would still have the final say in the decisions that are made.


Ecker said that an owner’s representative, which has been utilized for previous city projects, would be best towards the final design process and to oversee the construction. Of the three, she explained that she feels a steering committee would be the best way to move forward.


The commission agreed that an ad hoc steering committee would be something they would want to pursue, with the addition of the owner’s representative for later in the process.


Establishing a committee was rehashed during the regular commission meeting as an agenda item, specifically relating to Ecker’s suggested makeup of the committee. As it was included in the packet, the suggested committee roster included one city commissioner, one planning board member, one parks and recreation board member, one architectural review committee member, one aging in place committee member, one YMCA representative and one NEXT representative.


Commissioner Therese Longe suggested adding an additional NEXT representative and city commissioner for a total of two each. Commissioners agreed with the suggestion, but commissioners Brad Host and Andrew Haig went a step further to suggest that younger people should have a place on the committee as the area will also serve as a community center.


Commissioner Clinton Baller made a motion suggesting a new makeup: two city commissioners, one NEXT representative, one YMCA representative, an architect, an engineer, a construction contractor, one member of the planning board, one member of the parks and recreation board and one non-voting student representative.


The commission did not take any formal action during the workshop session but did approve the formation of an ad hoc steering committee during the regular meeting in a 6-0 vote. Mayor pro tem Katie Schafer was absent from the meeting.

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