South City rec building causes strife 

The cost of the proposed recreation building at Orange Memorial Park has ballooned to $6.44 million from its budgeted price of $4.3 million, thanks to an eye-catching design.

While no one was excited about the cost increase, some applauded the building as the landmark the city was looking for, while others said the design is not worth the steeper price.

The extra cash will come from fees tagged onto new developments specifically earmarked for park projects and will not affect the city budget. Officials said increased costs for the recreation building were unfortunate, yet defended the decision to spend the extra $2.1 million.

The proposed 6,200-square-foot building will be a community center where residents can attend classes, children can attend camp and which community groups can rent out for functions, said Karyl Matsumoto, a councilwoman who supported the increased budget at the March 14 City Council meeting.

While the building would occupy a roughly 3,100-square-foot space, the city is also looking at future renovations to the entire 20-acre park, she said.

"By the same token, that money could’ve been used on improvements for the park," Matsumoto said.

The extra money is going to construction costs and materials, which include Alaskan yellow cedar beams that are to extend out over a patio to provide protection from the elements, city officials said. The specific type of cedar is known for its resistance to rotting, officials added.

But the unusual design, which is environmentally friendly, created a cost that was "horrific," said Councilman Mark Addiego, the only council member to vote against the allocation of the extra $2.1 million.

"It’s going to burn up all the developer in-lieu fees," he said. "I hope they get the landmark they’re looking for."

Addiego pointed out that the new budget brings the total cost per square foot — if the proposed 500-square-foot restroom building is included — to $961, more than the $575 per square feet Vornado, a real estate investment trust, reportedly paid for a stake in San Francisco’s landmark Bank of America Building.

The new recreation building in Orange Park would also come with two new lighted, fenced-in, landscaped basketball courts for the park. Site preparation work should be completed this month.

City Manager Barry Nagel said that the price of materials and labor for this project might not bode well for the cost of future improvements. "There’s a bit of concern when we continue to see these high costs," he said.

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