An indoor swimming pool and robotics center for teenagers. Exercise rooms for yoga and zumba and an expanded section for children’s books.
These are among the features of the City’s innovative new venture: a combined state-of-the-art library branch and recreation center that will serve thousands of residents in East Arlington.
The $26 million facility is a major piece of the voter-approved 2014 bond program, which also authorized funding for streets, parks and fire facilities. The Arlington City Council recently approved the design contract for the combined recreation center/library branch and an architecture firm is now working with city leaders to draft plans.
“We are creating a destination center that will draw people from across East Arlington and beyond,” said Lemuel Randolph, Parks and Recreation Director. “This will be a unique center to Arlington that could serve as a future model for our city and region.”
Located at Bob Cooke Park, the 60,000-square-foot center will replace the existing Hugh Smith Recreation Center and East Arlington Branch Library. Because both facilities were aging and lacked adequate space to meet programming demands, city leaders saw an opportunity to create a one-stop shop on the east side, Randolph said.
The future facility will have a shared lobby as well as a kitchen and numerous community meeting rooms.
The recreation center portion is expected to include a senior center, an indoor lap swimming pool, a large fitness center, a game room with pool and table tennis and group exercise rooms.
On the library side, residents will have access to expanded sections for children and adult books, a teen center for science and technology and space for public technology. The East Branch Library, is the second most-visited library, could see it’s adult and early childhood literacy classes expand at the new location.
Director of Libraries Yoko Matsumoto said the library and recreation center will complement one another’s services to better serve East Arlington dwellers.
“We are working together to build a community center that reaches people holistically,” Matsumoto said. “Arlington residents could stop by the library to download an audio book then head over to the fitness room to run on the treadmill. Our two departments promote healthy minds and healthy bodies.”
Design work on the facility will continue for the next six to eight months, and the City will host a public meeting before construction begins in 2017, Construction Manager Alf Bumgardner said. A tentative opening date is scheduled for late 2018.
Once open, the new center will serve as an anchor in the revitalization of the east side and particularly the New York Avenue corridor, city officials say.
The new center could act as a catalyst to spur private development, said East Arlington Renewal President Sue Phillips, whose organization pushes for the beautification, revitalization and safety of East Arlington.
“This is going to be a catalyst for more great things in East Arlington and along New York Avenue,” said Phillips, a long-time resident. “The municipal center will be a huge project that further elevates East Arlington. And what’s good for East Arlington is good for Arlington.”