Orleans Community Center Renovation Moves Into Design Phase

By: Ryan Bray

The Orleans Select Board voted last week to proceed with final designs on plans to renovate the town's community center on Main Street. RYAN BRAY PHOTO

ORLEANS – Plans to renovate the community center on Main Street are moving forward.

The select board on Aug. 4 voted 4-0 to authorize Town Administrator John Kelly to enter into a contract with ICON Architecture of Boston, which will prepare a final design for the project.

In January, the select board charged the community building renovation task force with reviewing past studies on the center, identifying any unmet needs for the building and preparing a floor plan for the renovation.

“What you’re going to see is what the task force has recommended we move forward with,” task force member Alan McClennen said.

Work on the center has been funded through four separate town meeting votes using Community Preservation Act funds, McClennen said, but has been delayed in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A concept scheme for the inside of the center prepared in 2017 calls for gallery space, a large function area, a kitchenette area, restrooms and office space, including space to keep the Orleans Chamber of Commerce offices.

The plan presented to the select board Aug. 4 largely kept to that design, with adjustments made to improve accessibility, Ned Collier of ICON Architecture said. Those adjustments include the removal of a center stairwell leading to the center’s basement and attic, as well as a smaller kitchenette area to allow for more room in the gallery.

Collier said plans call for a “universal design,” which he said goes beyond the state standard for Americans with Disabilities Act compliance. The renovated center would also be an all-electric building that would not operate on fossil fuels and would readily accommodate solar panels.

“We’re dealing with a broad population here in Orleans, and we want to be able to serve that population and the community equitably,” Collier said.

Outside, the center would utilize a roll-up door with windows in keeping with the building’s past history as a firehouse. This would also allow the option for space in the function room to be expanded.

“You literally can open up the facade and make a really incredible public space,” Collier said.

Plans also call for an overhanging roof that would cover a walkway leading from the center’s rear parking lot near Cove Road out to the front of the building on Main Street.

Select Board member Andrea Reed said the design should honor the past while also being “aware of the future of the building.” She said the building should have a flexibility of use to accommodate any number of local groups.

“It’s a public building, so how can we embed that flexibility into its future life?” she asked.

ICON Architecture’s presentation to the select board also included some alternate design features, including improvements to abutting Parish Park. The work would add approximately $187,000 to the total project cost.

“Why make that an alternate?” select board member Kevin Galligan asked. “That should be a base requirement.”

Others in attendance of the Aug. 4 meeting raised concerns that the new design would take space away from groups that already make use of the center. Kyle Wibby, board president of Nauset Together We Can, said restrooms are planned for the space used by the group for after school programming.

Wibby said Together We Can was not consulted in plans for the renovation despite paying rent to use the center for programming. He added that apart from the community center, there is little in the way of space for programs serving middle schoolers in town.

“It’s beautiful,” he said of the proposed plan. “It’s gorgeous. But we were never consulted in the functionality and use of the space.”

Reed said the new design actually allows more room for programming, not less.

“I think we should flip that concern on its head and look at this as an improved space,” she said.

“There are many other uses for that space,” McClennen said of the gallery and function areas.

The estimated cost of the project is $1.87 million, up from $1.16 million in 2017. Collier said the bulk of the changes in the most recent plan area related to improving the sustainability of the building.

McClennen said the task force has $123,000 to put toward the design.

“I think you’re in good shape to authorize this task force to go ahead to the next step,” Kelly told the select board.

With the approval, ION Architecture will “measure up” the existing building, a process Collier said will help reduce unanticipated costs as the project goes to construction.

“Documenting the existing building with a high level of accuracy is important to minimizing risk in the future,” he said. “The big risk with adaptive reuse, as I’m sure you all know, is unforeseen conditions, because they drive the cost up.”

The task force wants to put the project out to bid by February in hopes of having bids in by April. That would allow a figure to be brought to town meeting voters in the spring, McClennen said. The task force is also recommending that the town seek Community Preservation Act funding for the project, an application which McClennen said he hopes will be ready by late November.

“The way this could be funded is through a CPA historic preservation bond issue,” he said. “So the costs would be paid back 20 years through that bond issue.”

The project also requires an owner’s project manager to oversee the construction, the funding for which would also have to be approved at town meeting in the spring. Ron Collins will serve as owner’s project manager through the construction phase.

Construction could begin in September 2022 and be completed by June 2023.