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Council gives go-ahead for visitor center overhaul

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - The former Wilsonville Visitor and Information Center will house the citys parks and recreation department in the future, once a proposed $371,000 remodel is completed. The Wilsonville City Council favors an extensive overhaul of the city-owned former visitor and information center at Town Center Park.

The only real question left to decide is a timeline for a proposed $371,000 project that would include new public restrooms accessible from the building’s exterior, as well as an overhauled layout that would add usable office space within the 4,400-square-foot building. It would also feature a small Korean War Memorial exhibit and replace the building’s existing windows, which are original to the building, built in 1999 to serve the tourism and visitor information needs of both the city and Clackamas County.

The Wilsonville Area Chamber of Commerce formerly occupied office space at the visitor center, but relocated to new offices in north Wilsonville at the beginning of this year.

Meanwhile, the city’s new parks and recreation department, formed less than a year ago, plans to move into the vacant building once renovations are complete.

“We want more people, more services, more customers and citizens coming and going, and I think we can’t quite get there by doing bare minimum on a facility,” Mayor Tim Knapp said at a Feb. 3 council work session.

City staff presented three options to the council. Simply repairing and refurbishing the existing office space and restrooms was the first at an estimated cost of $156,163. The second option is the one favored by the council, while the third proposal comes with an estimated price tag of $283,444 and would include exterior restrooms but not additional office space within the building.

Parks and Recreation Director Stan Sherer told councilors the city cannot currently meet public demand for its programs and services in the existing community center on Town Center Loop.

“We’re simply not meeting the demand for service that the community has identified,” he said. “The relocation of the restroom would really improve the functionality of the building. People would not have to access the lobby to use the restrooms as currently is the case.”

When the department relocates along with eight employees, Sherer added, the building remodel not only would provide more programmable space but would better serve the public using the adjacent Town Center Park.

The addition of office space also is crucial, Sherer said. Currently, parks and recreation staff are using a limited number of small offices at the community center. Some are so narrow you can touch both walls at one time.

“Elbow to elbow is putting it generously,” City Manager Bryan Cosgrove said.

Also of note, none of the three proposals put forward by city staff contain a provision for repairing or replacing the building’s roof or HVAC system, both of which need replacement in the next few years, said city Building Official Martin Brown.

“They’ve definitely seen a lot of wear and tear because of the amount of use from the public,” Brown said, “especially kids using the water feature in the summer.”

Brown also said that four original murals painted by artist Hector Hernandez and installed in 2007 will be preserved and featured prominently once the building is overhauled.

“With Wilsonville growing, with more residential development here and more workers coming who run and use the parks,” said Councilor Susie Stevens, “I think having a healthy parks and rec department is a boon for the city.”

City staff now will prepare a bid package for the project, while the finance department will craft a supplemental budget to pay for the work. The project was not included in the current city budget.

“You’ll get another crack at it,” Cosgrove told councilors. “Those are planning level estimates right now.”



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