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Concept plans for the new community center, in Sea Isle City, were presented in an April 24 video. 

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SEA ISLE CITY – In a sign of the times, reflecting 2021’s technology and lingering restrictions related to Covid, Sea Isle City organized a virtual town hall meeting April 24. 

Originally, the presentation might have taken the form of a traditional town hall, with face-to-face connections between city officials and the public. However, the city administration instead put forward a pre-recorded presentation that outlined plans for the new community center, which will use the site of the municipality’s former public school building, 4501 Park Rd. 

The school will be razed, and the estimated cost of the center is $20 million, according to information in the video (https://bit.ly/3nrJ4mj).

Mayor Leonard Desiderio, on several occasions, stated the city wants to achieve the greatest dissemination of the vision, background, and details of the proposed project, so that all members of the public, especially residents, would be fully informed, as well as be able to provide as much input as possible. 

The city emailed the presentation to registered recipients of the city’s various e-communications and then, after the morning’s livestream, posted it on the municipal website. 

Desiderio kicked off the video by reiterating his message that the concept plans being discussed were open to adaptation and modification. 

“The school closed in 2012, and when the city took over management of the building, we have been engaged in multiple surveys, a town hall, many discussions, and other methods of eliciting public input, so that the project will truly represent what residents want,” he said. 

“For example, some property owners approached city administration and shared their opinion that original plans were overreaching, so the process has been one of continuous reflection of public input, as well as input from the (Sea Isle City) Chamber of Commerce and the special recreation committee we’ve established to ensure we receive feedback, including from the employees who will be running the events and activities at the center, with nothing finalized yet,” summed up Desiderio.  

The overall purpose, configuration, and scope of the community center was the subject of much debate since the first indications a community center might be considered. Much of the debate centered around the cost of various amenities, such as a pool, which was not approved by residents.

For the presentation of the concept plans, Katherine Custer, director, Department of Community Services, Sea Isle City, said, “We will be using the same footprint of the school, with both the main entrances and the parking lot conveniently located near the entrance, on Central Avenue. 

“The design of the building will complement the residential area surrounding it and not be a bland, institutional-looking structure, with ADA (American with Disabilities Act) compliant and environmentally friendly features. 

“The first floor will comprise about 32,000 square feet, with lots of natural lights. That first-floor space will include offices, lockers, and a cafe-lounge area that will sell prepared foods through a lease arrangement with a local business owner. 

“There also will be a multi-purpose community room for 144 people seated at round tables and many more in chair seating. The community room will also have a 45-foot-wide stage, with a screen, so it will be very attractive to the many civic groups and other organizations that are so important to Sea Isle City. 

“An additional feature is the fitness room, with mirrors for fitness classes. There won’t be any exercise equipment, so we don’t compete with the many providers in town. 

“The second-floor highlights will be a large gym, with a wood-sprung floor that is ideal for joints. The basketball court will also be striped for four pickleball courts and volleyball play,” explained Custer. 

At the end of the presentation, Desiderio and Custer emphasized the value of this investment in and by the municipality for the growing numbers of individuals making Sea Isle City their home. 

An email address was displayed, community@seaislecitynj.us, to conclude the video, so that property owners and residents can continue to provide comments and suggestions, as well as ask questions.  

To contact Camille Sailer, email csailer@cmcherald.com.

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