Legion Field Project, Breaking Ground by September

With plans to break ground by the end of summer, the city of Pensacola hosted another public input meeting last night for the Legion Filed Resource Center.

Dave Flaherty, the city’s director of Neighborhood Services, opened the meeting by assuring that concerns pertaining to the library portion of the project had beed heard during a previous public input session.

“It was very clear that the library was the number one issue on people’s minds,” Flaherty told the crowd of about two dozen people.

During the previous public meeting, concerns were raised over the size of the new home of the Westside Library. While he said that planners “went back and did their homework” pertaining to the library, the proposed plans remained much the same due to financial limitations.

“Quite honestly, to be up front with you,” Flaherty said, “you’re probably not going to see a lot of change from what you saw three weeks ago.”

During a presentation overviewing the plans for the resource center, DAG architect Pat Owen explained that the current Westside Library had been visited in order to get a feel for what the new facility would be housing. He also said that the facility would be bigger than had been previously stated; during the previous meeting the library size was listed at around 3500 square feet.

“We apologize, we kind of threw a number out there that was kind of a grenade,” he said, explaining that the library would be closer to 4300 square feet, due to not factoring in some areas of the facility previously. “Hopefully, you see we are definitely not going to have less space.”

The architect also spoke about the resource center’s other aspects: t-ball fields, shade trees, the basketball court. Owen said that the gymnasium could double as a multi-use facility.

“It’s limited by your imagination how that can be utilized,” he said.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, residents inquired about building standards and raised concerns about the impact on children and families who live near the current Westside Library. One woman wanted to know if the city had explored using any of the vacant school properties as a facility for a new library.

Diane Mack took issue with the library’s aesthetics. She said it needed to be a more welcoming facility.

“When I look at that,” Mack said, motioning toward the plans, “it looks sterile, it looks clinical—like something out of a bad movie, like “Gattaca” or something.”

Another person was interested in the new resource center’s environmental building standards—“How green is it?”

Owen said that the building would meet Energy Star requirements, but not qualify for LEED certification. He also assured everyone that the building would be able to weather hurricanes as well as the day-to-day.

“Besides hurricanes,” Owen said, “we’re designing it for people who like to kick basketballs against the wall and throw basketballs at ceilings—it’s designed for that, very durable.”

Flaherty said that concerns  heard during these public input sessions will be factored into the project. The Legion Field Resource Center project is slated to begin by September.

Due to the public meetings, Flaherty said the original start-date of August had been pushed back a month. He said efforts would be made to speed up the process and start the 14-month project on time—“but that’s going to be very optimistic.”

The entire project should be wrapped up by October or November of 2013.