City Exploring Strategies to Invest in the Rec Center
Big things are in store for the Takoma Park Recreation Center, with the City mulling plans to renovate the aging facility. There is even the possibility of getting an entirely new recreation building on the horizon.
“The building was originally built in the 70s,” said Ira Kowler, Takoma Park’s economic development manager. “It’s old, it’s a one-story building with a basketball court and some multi-purpose rooms, but it needs some TLC. For the past half-decade, the City’s been trying to think creatively about the potential that this site has and the potential it has to meet a lot of needs for the City and community at large.”
The City took control of the recreation center at 7315 New Hampshire Avenue from Montgomery County about two years ago as part of a land swap arrangement, unloading forested area for the 1.8-acre plot and 10,000 square-foot building. The arrangement was made under the condition that the City would still provide recreation facilities. “The City really acquired the building with the intention of improving the recreation services and facilities and serving the goals of our Housing and Strategic Development plan from 2019 to produce more affordable housing throughout the city,” Kowler said.
In 2021, Takoma Park partnered with the urban consulting practice Brick & Story to create an engagement plan to ask the community what they want to see in a recreation center and to use the space to its full potential. “A lot of folks wanted new programming and different hours—including more evening hours—more fitness rooms, a weight room, exercise room, and fitness classes,” Kowler said. “There was some broad interest in having more flexible space and potentially more uses of space, whether that’s a café or open community space or housing.”
Part of the funding for the first rounds of improvements to the building will be from $175,000 in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to be used for the short-term improvements needed on the existing structure, such as updating the air conditioning in the building and fixing roofing and other issues.
The City was also awarded $145,000 through a state grant for predevelopment work on the site. Part of the predevelopment work is looking into a public-private partnership with the possibility of a ground-floor recreation center and multi-floor mixed-use space above it.
“The City is excited to take the next step in figuring out what an open private-public process might be,” Kowler said. “We are moving forward with gauging interest in whether a bigger development is something that’s possible on the site under the condition that we get a bigger and better recreation center.”
No matter what the future holds, the City plans to work hard to minimize any impacts and keep services running as smoothly as possible during the process. “It’s a long process, and the building will be around for a while regardless of what happens,” Kowler said. “Now we’re at an exciting next step in the process with funding for immediate work that must be done and funding for larger development opportunities. The services are No. 1, and any sort of process would have to account for not disrupting those services. The ultimate goal is to get a better rec center.”
This article was featured in the October 2022 Newsletter. Visit the Takoma Park Newsletter webpage to see the full list of past newsletters.