- Why Do We Need a Community Recreation Center?
Irondequoit finds itself in an exciting time. Property values are rising. There is a growing demand to live in our community. We are seeing an influx of younger families who are looking to take advantage of Irondequoit’s many great attributes, including our schools, beautiful neighborhoods and strong sense of community. Additionally, we are seeing an increase in senior housing to allow our longtime residents to age in place.
The Town’s recreation program has grown significantly over the past several years, but suffers from a lack of space. Just as the Town’s new library was conceived by a desire to unify a Town that embraces education, literacy and cultural enrichment, a community center can make that Town unity even stronger by providing an amenity that most other communities already have.
If you canvassed the towns of Monroe County, most of Irondequoit’s peers either already have a town community/recreation center, a privately-run YMCA/JCC- like facility; or, both! In order for Irondequoit to continue to be competitive with other communities, we must continue to invest in our future.
Furthermore, other Towns have already done what is being proposed in Irondequoit.
- The Town of Henrietta opened a $10 million recreation center in 2017
- The Town of Pittsford completed a $9.2 million renovation of their Community Center in 2018
- The Town of Chili is building a $24 million Community Center/Library
- Is the Space at Skyview on the Ridge Being Donated to the Town?
Technically, Yes. As was previously announced, the owner of the former-Mall is not charging the Town any base rent to be at the Mall. Commercial leases for similar space can run as much as $1/square foot/month, meaning the Town would be saving potential hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual lease payments.
As with any major public works project, the Town would be responsible for the costs associated with building out the space. As is the case with any lease agreement, the Town would be responsible for any common area maintenance charges associated with being at the former Mall – costs it would likely incur regardless if it owns the facility, or not.
- Why Does the Town Need to Lease?
The former-Mall represents perhaps the only parcel of land conducive for the Town to construct a community center. For a town that is 98% built-out, we simply lack the open space that other towns enjoy. If we are to locate a community center in the former Mall, a lease represents the most suitable financial agreement with the owner that also protects the interests of the Town as it incurs costs towards planning the project. The lease agreement also allows the Town to work with the owner on the design and engineering work associated with planning the facility. The acquisition cost of a property large enough to accommodate a new community center would likely make the project not feasible.
- How Long is the Lease?
The initial term of the lease is 25-years. The Town would then have the right to extend for five years terms, after that initial term.
- Has the Town Thought About the Costs of Operating the Facility?
In 2018, the Town of Irondequoit engaged with Ballard King & Associates, LTD to conduct a feasibility study for the Town. It provided a market assessment as well as operating projections. The study concluded that the best operator of such a facility would be the Town, itself, given its already well-established recreation program.
Furthermore, the study concluded that the facility could recover ultimately 90 percent of its cost, but that does not factor in natural incorporation of existing Department of Recreation operating costs that are already embedded into the Town’s expense budget. Therefore, we expect that cost recovery ratio to be even higher once we merge our existing Recreation staff into the operation of a community center.
Ultimately, the Town Board will determine most cost-effective operating structure prior to commencement of any project.
- How Much Will it Cost?
After spending a great amount of time trying to deliver a facility that meets the demands and needs of the community, while always seeking to do so in the most cost-effective manner possible, the Town has developed a project budget of $8.5 million, with approximately and additional $1 million in soft costs.
The Town plans to bond approximately $7.25 million which will have to be approved by the voters of Irondequoit in a referendum. The rest of the project will be funded through the sizable fund balance the Town has accrued over the past several years.
Other local towns - Henrietta, Pittsford and Chili – have recently constructed, reconstructed or are moving forward with town community centers that would provide many of the same services as what is being envisioned for Irondequoit. The Irondequoit Community Center would not exceed the cost of other town’s community center projects. Again - we are looking to provide this amenity with the interests of our taxpayer in mind.
By not having to pay a base lease (actually $1/annually), the Town will save hundreds of thousands of dollars annually as the owner of the facility is not looking to derive a profit from having the Town as a tenant.
- Would the Facility be Exclusively for Town Residents?
Given this would be a public facility, we would never restrict access based on where someone lives. There would almost certainly be lower membership fees to town residents, and non-residents would have to be a premium above a resident rate. The center would be built, however, to provide programs and services through our recreation program – the primary user of such services being town residents.
- Will We Be Able to Utilize the Common Area of the Mall?
Yes, it was very important for the Town to secure access to the common areas of the mall. This will provide the ability for people to use the space just as they did before it was closed a decade ago.
- What About Security?
The property owner has agreed to provide space in Skyview on the Ridge for the Irondequoit Police Department to use. While this wouldn’t be a full substation, it would allow the IPD to have a physical presence near the community center. As this facility will be operating both before and after normal business hours – akin to a YMCA - we recognize the need to make our residents feel safe at all hours of the day.
- How Much Would the Proposed Borrowing Impact My Taxes?
The Town has done a good job managing its long-term debt. Even with the financing and construction of a Library and Department of Public Works facility, the Town is still paying nearly a million dollars less in debt service than it was just five years ago. As the Town continues to retire long-term debt, we assume that the costs of financing the community center would not increase overall debt service to the Town.
All things considered, the median annual debt service would cost approximately $0.14 per $1,000 of assessed value, or, approximately $18.20 annually for the average Irondequoit homeowner, assessed at $130,000.
- When Would the Project be Completed?
Should the residents of Irondequoit approve this project in July, the Town would immediately begin selecting an architectural firm for final design, as well as a Construction manager. Under a rigorous timeframe, the Town would commence construction in January 2020 and open for business in late 2020.
September 2017: Supervisor Seeley and the Town Board make a public announcement of offer made by the owner of the former Irondequoit Mall (now Skyview on the Ridge) to donate space for the Town to build out a community recreation center.
November 1, 2017: Supervisor Seeley announces a community planning process, including appointing a Community Center Advisory Committee, made up of five residents, as well as key town staff.
November 30, 2017: The Town hosts the first public meeting at the Public Library to garner feedback about what residents’ opinion on what such a facility should incorporate. 125 residents attend.
December 2017 – February 2018: Nearly 1300 Town residents respond to an online survey to allow for feedback about various options for a center
January 2018: The Town’s consultant, Labella Associates, hosts a series of focus groups of community members, centering on: amenities, technology, accessibility and programming.
January 2018: The Town Board contracts with Ballard King Associates to conduct a feasibility study and market analysis to access various operating models for such a facility, as well as the possible revenue generation. The goal of this is to determine: 1) a preferred operating model; 2) an estimate of cost recovery; 3) key amenities based on the public information process
February 28, 2018: The Town, with its consultant LaBella Associates, hosts its second public meeting at Bishop Kearney High School to discuss the initial results of the Public Engagement process. Meeting attendees also receive initial results of the Ballard King marketing and feasibility study.
March 20, 2018: Darrin Barr from Ballard King presents the final Feasibility study to the Town Board at its public monthly meeting
June 2018: The Town next begins the complex process of determining the best legal and financial model to engage the building owner, while protecting the Town’s interests. The Town determines that further design and planning should
December 2018: The Town Board authorizes the execution of a lease agreement, with annual base rent of $1. Included in the lease agreement is a plan to move forward with a schematic design to finalize the project design and cost
January – April 2019: The Town works with Dal Pos Architects, LLC to create a schematic design for both the interior and exterior of the facility. This provides the Town with an understanding of what can be built where, and how much it will cost.
May 21, 2019: The Town Board schedules a public referendum on July 31, 2019 for the proposed community center. The voters will be asked to decide if the Town should borrow $7.25 million to finance the facility, and permit using $2.25 million in fund balance
- Will there be membership fees?
Consistent with the philosophy of Irondequoit's recreation programming, the goal of the proposed community center is to provide affordable access to a first rate programs and facilities. Therefore, the community center will aim to be accessible to all residents.
Facilities like this, which include fitness centers, do generally require some level of membership. The Ballard King study from 2018 canvassed municipally-run facilities, on par with that which we've proposed for Irondequoit, from communities of all sizes across the country. From that, they recommended a fee structure - between $20-$25/ month - that is significantly more affordable than fee structures in similar facilities in neighboring communities. Like other communities, non-residents will pay an additional premium for membership ((e: Webster & Perinton).
The goal of the community center is not to generate a profit. In fact, we believe breaking-even is a best case scenario and if we are to take recreation seriously in our Town, it is an investment we should be willing to make in order to make membership competitive and affordable for our residents.
Furthermore, for our older residents, it is our intention for the community center to be certified to accept insurance company and Medicare fitness benefits (such as Silver Sneakers) that underwrite the cost of gym membership.