$57 million doesn't include library or purchase price

The latest cost estimate on construction of a community center in Lake Oswego stands at $57 million as city officials begin probing ways to recoup the expense.

The new figure does not include the $20 million cost of purchasing the former Safeco property on Kruse Way or the potential cost of building new library facilities there.

However, it does reflect a scaling back of initial community center designs, called too grandiose by many Lake Oswegans attending fall workshops on a first scheme. Rough numbers then put construction costs at $70 to $75 million.

For now, the overall project has also been sized down, eliminating the need for a costly parking structure. Discussion about a new library has been pulled out of the community center study.

Questions about whether Lake Oswego will move its library to the new site, open a branch there or leave library services as is may still boost the cost of the community center proposal if the Lake Oswego City Council chooses to add library features back in.

Right now, the steering committee probing community center designs has given the library problem back to city councilors to solve. They have left three options, ranging from a $5.4 million, 20,000-square-foot branch library to a $24 million, 66,000-square foot facility for the council to explore.

Wherever the final price tag lands, not all of those costs are expected to draw from general obligation bonds - bonds paid by local property taxes - if voters approve a community center design.

'I think it's fairly well a given that GO bonds will fund the majority of the project,' said Brant Williams, director of community center development for the city of Lake Oswego.

However, Williams said city officials aim to reduce the cost of the bond through other means. He said they would be looking at private partnerships, donations from sponsors, money in other parts of the city budget and land sales to recoup costs.

The plan to sell surplus land could lure developers to parcels surrounding the proposed community center site on Kruse Way.

So far, Williams said, the city has gotten offers on adjacent land but not entered into talks with any builders.

He said a next study phase would probe those possibilities further. Any private development would avoid duplication of public amenities, Williams said, to focus on complimentary services.

He suggested a therapy pool, private food and beverage vendors and a sporting goods store as potential fits on the site. He said affordable housing for seniors and other residents has not been ruled out as a development option.

Right now, proposals for the community center call for surface parking on three of eight buildable acres on the site, a parking area that's comparable to existing parking lots on the land today. That parking could roll into structures to make way for private development. The city may also choose to retain the land for future public projects, such as a library.

Williams said the $57 million proposal, to be unveiled in detail at a March 7 workshop for the public, is still a work in progress that 'is very responsive to the three key issues that we heard when we took the plan out to the public last fall.'

Those issues included public concern the project was too costly and grandiose, apprehension about changes in library services and reluctance to relocate the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center from First Addition to the Waluga Neighborhood.

To downsize the plan, the steering committee reduced the size of a number of proposed features, scaling down a lap pool to 12 lanes, removed its stadium seating and making other areas of the proposed center smaller.

The group also did away with a proposed art gallery, downsized space for seniors in favor of retaining the ACC at the First Addition site and did away with activity spaces such as an indoor playground and yoga studio, which can be assembled in the gymnasium.

In the new mix of amenities, much of the design will fit inside a renovated Safeco building. Williams said the building, which is 89,000 square feet, will house all but the gym and lap pool, to be constructed as additions.

Plans to replace the building have been scrapped in favor of reuse. The total square footage of the project has been reduced to 137,220 from a proposed 200,000, most of which stems from the removal of the library.

The group has until June to finalize its recommendations to the Lake Oswego City Council. Their proposal will pass through at least one more round of public input in March.

The group is expected to propose a variety of building phases and funding plans for the city council to choose from. A favored proposal will likely appear on the fall 2008 ballot.

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