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Public meeting on tap

Picture this: In a car headed west on Kruse Way, the Lake Oswego Com-munity Center is visible from the road. The occasional skateboarder makes an aerial pass across the building's façade. The former insurance building, with its white brick and black windows, has been subtly changed.

By 2010, designers have used a wood veneer to turn its stark lines and louvered vents into a modern version of the 1979 building. They've used wood accents to build on its straight lines, adding trellises that play on sunlight.

Their plan, in the end, costs less than a new building and plays on a 70s retro look that's popular in Portland. Inside, amenities on a community center wish list have been built into the design, the old empire of cubicles replaced with an atmosphere of bustle and fun.

This is the vision Lake Oswego's Community Cen-ter Steering Committee will share with local residents at the next public meeting on a proposed community center, set for Wednesday.

The latest design incorporates public feedback from fall forums that called the project, which veered briefly toward a new building, grandiose, costly and a threat to a successful Lake Oswego Adult Community Center and library in First Addition.

In this next design social services for seniors, such as meals, stay at the ACC in First Addition but cultural and social programs, like card games, move to the community center. No decision has been made as to which facility will house the ACC's popular computer lab.

The issue of whether to house a branch or central library at the community center has been taken out of this phase of study, given back to the Lake Oswego City Council to resolve as a larger programming issue.

Responding to concerns about costs, the steering committee scaled down figures by reducing the size of some amenities and eliminating others. They've also confined the new program to reuse of the existing building.

'We have really wrestled to try to include the feedback from the public sessions that we have had,' said Sandy Leybold, vice chair of the steering committee.

'We're very excited to hear what the community thinks about (the new design), ultimately because it's the community's project,' said Dennis Elliott, who chairs the committee.

With help from city staff and a design consulting team, the committee has set operational costs for the proposed center to break even, drawing revenues from paid fees for rental spaces, such as birthday parties and events, admission fees, classes, workshops and a juice bar. The design includes a space that holds 250 people for large parties.

The costs of construction, however, would remain the public's obligation, targeted at $57 million. The public would also pay the $20 million cost of purchasing the building.

That figure could increase by anywhere from $5.4 to $24 million if library services are added back in later. Currently, the design includes space for a 38,000-square-foot library. A larger library is still possible with added public expense.

Some proposals, such as the sale of city land, could reduce the price tag somewhat.

As the committee charts a course to a final recommendation for the city council on June 1, next Wednesday's meeting is one of two remaining public sessions on the group's calendar. The other is set for May.

Brant Williams, director of community center development for Lake Oswego, said the purpose of the March 7 session is to let people hear the steering committee's current vision and again take feedback to revise it.

The steering committee has been asked for a design recommendation only, one that meets the community's needs.

Elliott said costs, however, have never been far from consideration:

'One of the biggest challenges is balancing that projected cost with a viable community center that meets the community's needs,' he said.For now, those needs have been narrowed down to two gymnasiums, a swimming pool for laps plus a second recreational pool, poolside seating for 250, locker rooms, changing rooms, meeting and events rooms, a child watch area, a catering kitchen, technology area, exercise and fitness rooms, plus the city's parks and recreation department.

In a remodeled design, the entry serves as a community gathering room with a hearth, juice bar and staircase. It opens into recreational facilities, swimming pools and multipurpose rooms. Above the civic entry, a three-lane track rings the fitness areas and the gymnasiums as its eighth-of-a-mile route stretches over the first-floor foyer.

Space is also included for a therapy pool but only if operated through partnership with a private health group.

Outside amenities include a 15,000-square-foot skate park on its Kruse Way side, recessed out of view, plus a walking path, sun terrace and outdoor play area for kids.

'Although these look very specific, really in terms of design we're in a conceptual phase,' Leybold said.

'We're really trying to build upon the existing structure in a very economic way,' said Brian Jackson, principal architect with Boora Architects, Inc., the city's contractor for the design.

'The idea is we're keeping the brick veneer because we don't want to spend the money to take that all off but we're using a new veneer, probably wood, to bring different elements together,' he said.

If the community center idea is approved by voters, it would take two and a half years from the date of that approval to complete its design and construction. Cost estimates for the project are based on figures from 2010. With a vote pending in 2008, that's the soonest a community center would be built.

An initiative petition now pending with the city elections office could put the brakes on any plans for a community center, however. If signature support places the initiative on a November 2007 ballot, Lake Oswego voters will be asked whether they want to approve property purchases of more than $1 million by vote. A yes on that question would trigger a vote on whether to sell the Safeco Building.