After years of planning and debate, construction is getting started on the new Lovettsville Community Center.
Beginning the week of July 15, temporary fencing went up on the site of the new community center in front of the existing building, marking the start of a two-and-a-half-year-long, four-phase project that will see the Meridian Construction Co. build a new 19,289-square-foot Lovettsville Community Center for $10.8 million.
The new, single-story, masonry-clad, L-shaped community center, which will be located in front of the existing 10,000-square-foot center, will feature a full-court gymnasium with folding partition, staff office space, a fitness room, multiple classrooms, a kitchen, storage space, several meeting rooms and special space set aside for senior citizens—all part of a project that’s registered with the U.S. Green Building Council as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
Meridian will also renovate the 1,200-square-foot pool house and add in 600 square feet of space to include expanded men’s and women’s showers and changing areas, a new staff breakroom, a first aid area and concession areas.
During construction, the existing community center, which houses a preschool, will remain in operation, as will the pool, playground, tennis courts and outdoor basketball court.
The work will begin with a first phase that will include the demolition of the baseball field, the installation of geothermal wells and the construction of a new gravel parking lot. According to Tony Jones, the county’s Department of Transportation and Capital Infrastructure communications manager, that work should wrap up by Sept. 27.
The second phase will begin a day later and will include construction of the new center. That should take 16 months to complete, tentatively ending January 2021, and will be followed by phase three—which involves the demolition of the existing community center.
In the final phase, beginning in May 2021, Meridian will complete remaining site work. Depending on weather delays, the new community center should open to the public in January 2022.
That will end a multi-year process that began when the county hired LSY Architects and Lab Planners for $921,000 in 2013 to design the new community center.
While the firm initially outlined two plans—one to renovate the existing community center and another to replace it—the Board of Supervisors ultimately chose to build a new center and raze the existing one. Jones said that was primarily because of theexisting center’s many floor elevations and staircases that would have made it “very difficult and costly” to make ADA accessible.
After LSY finalized a design, the county issued an advertisement to find a construction firm in April 2018. Because all the bids exceeded the county budget for the project, the county cancelled them all and put the project back up for bid this February.
Although nine firms attended the pre-bid conference, only three submitted bids. Edifice Solutions proposed to handle the work for $12.3 million, Keller Brothers bid $11.3 million and Meridian’s proposal was the lowest, at $10.8 million.
The county awarded a contract to Meridian on June 7.
A new community center in Virginia’s northernmost town has been talked about for more than a decade, with some residents outspoken in their opposition of a replacement plan.
In 2014, the Lovettsville Historical Society publicly stated that it felt the county did not adequately consider renovating the existing community center, which has been in use since the late 1970s.
EdSpannaus, the society’s vice president, said that while the group has no position on the project now, the county would have been better off if it had done what the society initially proposed years ago—preserve the existing community center and build a new one across the street in the Lovettsville Community Park, which is slated to begin development early next year.
Spannaus said the multiple construction delays and increased cost shows that the historical society was correct in its recommendation. He worries about the safety of children at the center’s preschool during the construction period.
The 91-acre Lovettsville Community Park will featureseven athleticfields, restrooms, concessions, maintenance facilities and an equestrian area. Jones said the county is working to obtain several easements from the town and expects to advertise an information for bidders sometime this month to find a construction company for the work.