02/08/10 — Officials: Rec Center key to plan downtown

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Officials: Rec Center key to plan downtown

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on February 8, 2010 1:46 PM

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This petition was delivered to the city in protest of the Recreation Center project.

Members of the Goldsboro City Council will discuss the potential construction of a new recreation center along Center Street during their three-day retreat later this week, but some members of the community are already speaking out against the design the council recently put out for bid.

A petition signed by nearly 100 local residents was received by the city management team before the board voted to take the project to the next level -- a document that claims the proposed facility "is not environmentally compatible with existing buildings" downtown.

Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. executive director Julie Thompson said she sympathizes with those who signed it, but argued that completion of the project is more important to the downtown master plan than the building's facade.

"I still hope there could be some compromises (made regarding the design)," she said. "But I also truly believe that if we don't get it out for bid, I think we'll just be putting the project in jeopardy."

The DGDC board also has noted the significance of getting the building -- regardless of the look -- approved for construction, Mrs. Thompson said.

"What (a recreation center) would bring as far as the energy and the traffic ... it's a big selling point," she said. "So you won't see any of our board members' names on that petition because the facility is extremely important to the overall plan. It's a vital component of our vision."

The petitioners took note of the fact that the project needed to move forward post haste but still are not convinced a multi-million dollar investment should be made on a set of designs they say "became a runaway freight train."

"We understand that building the center would be less expensive now, but much are opposed to being forced to accept a building design which will have a negative, rather than positive, impact on the overall downtown plan," the document reads. "If a client is not pleased with the facade, they should not be coerced into paying additional money to receive an acceptable design."

That issue was discussed by the council in early December before it voted to appropriate more than $340,000 toward the project -- money that went to architectural firm Pearce, Brinkley, Cease and Lee, P.A., for additional design services, re-bidding fees and construction administration fees associated with reconstructing the facility.

Councilman Michael Headen said he was not convinced the design was worth the expense, and voted against the measure, but then-Parks and Recreation director David said a redesign simply was not an option if the council intended to take advantage of the current economic climate.

"If you don't like what you have, throw the entire thing away, go hire a new architectural firm and start over," he said then. "You're right. You spent a lot of money to get to this point. It's a modern, contemporary, new urban type of design. ... That's what they came up with."

Last week, Mayor Al King and Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Allen both commented on the petition.

And both said they were sure that the opinions of those who signed the document represent a small percentage of the Goldsboro population -- that those who are opposed to the designs must not have seen the latest sets.

"You're always going to have that 10 percent that doesn't agree," King said. "That's just the way it is."