The county government’s plan to raze the Lovettsville Community Center and build a new one was sidelined in January when administrators fired the construction contractor. Now, a group of town residents are using that standstill to renew a push to preserve the nearly 100-year-old building.
It has been nearly a decade since the county’s Department of Transportation and Capital Infrastructure staff decided to demolish the existing community center building and build a new one on the same spot. The decision was based on concerns that the existing building was functionally obsolete, lacked ADA accessibility and had reached the end of its useful life, according to Loudoun Public Information Officer Glen Barbour. Meridian Construction Co. began that work under a $10.8 million contract in July 2019 but pulled out six months later when the county terminated the contract on Jan. 17, following a series of delays that set the project back four months. Now, the county staff plans to re-issue a construction bid by or before mid-August.
According to Barbour, the county staff expects work to proceed in late fall. When construction resumes, it could feature plans to preserve the existing community center building—which was originally built in the late 1920s and added onto throughout the next five decades—and construct a new one across the street, on land that’s part of the county’s Lovettsville Community Park project. That idea was proposed by town residents years ago, when the $13.7 million community center project was still in the initial planning stages.
Now that the project has stalled, the Lovettsville Historical Society has taken the lead on the preservation push. Already, its members have presented their ideas to the Loudoun County Heritage Commission and are set to send a letter to and speak in front of the county Board of Supervisors.
On Feb. 3, Historical Society President Fred George and Vice President Ed Spannaus briefed the Heritage Commission. George and Spannaus said it seemed as though all commission members were in agreement on plans to preserve the community center.
“It’s an issue of concern to them,” Spannaus said. “Everybody seemed onboard—we were quite pleased with the reception we received.”
Spannaus said the commission’s Stewardship Subcommittee was drafting a letter for commission members to approve and forward to the Board of Supervisors, most likely requesting the board to reconsider demolition plans. He noted it was his understanding the county has a policy requiring the Planning Commission to review demolition plans for any county-owned building aged 50 years or more, but that the policy wasn’t followed in the case of the Lovettsville Community Center.
“That was never done,” he said.
George said the historical society is also hoping to gain the support of the Lovettsville Alumni Association and the Aldie Heritage Association, which previously helped to save two historic Aldie buildings from demolition.
Barbour said the county staff is aware of the proposal to preserve the existing building and construct a new one across the street and that “it will be considered.”
“The county is studying the options,” he stated.
The town government is also beginning to involve itself in the matter.
Mayor Nate Fontaine said he and the entire Town Council are open to learning more about the county’s plans to move the project forward. He said that while his discussions with the county are in the early stages, one idea is circulating that could see the town request the county to transfer ownership, lease or sell the existing community center building to the town.
“There is interest in that,” Fontaine said, emphasizing that he’s simply trying to gather information at the moment. “It never hurts to have a discussion with folks.”
Fontaine said he has a March 30 meeting scheduled with County Administrator Tim Hemstreet and Supervisor Caleb Kershner (R-Catoctin) to discuss the options.
If the town does gain control of the community center building, it could look into moving its meetings there. Currently, the town staff is reviewing bids from firms interested in designing and building a 2,125-square-foot town office expansion next to the existing town office—a project that’s been talked about for years.
George, who attended elementary school in the community center building before Lovettsville Elementary was built in the early 1970s, said the county could also transfer ownership of the community center building to the historical society. He said it’s important for some organization to gain control of the building.
“The main thing is to save it,” he said. “My plan is to move full speed ahead.”
In the meantime, the nine-decade-old community center will remain open to residents, specifically for kids in the all-day preschool and afterschool program that have operated there for decades. Barbour said the building remains safe for those activities.
As for the 91-acre Lovettsville Community Park, Barbour said the county staff expects the Board of Supervisors to award a construction contract this month and construction to begin in May or June. Work on the park—which will feature seven athletic fields, restrooms, concessions, an equestrian area, an amphitheater, an off-leash area and a walking trail—should wrap up in fall 2021.