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Occidental Community Center's Future

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 Occidental Community Center's Future

The Occidental Community Center has been a landmark at the south end of town since the mid-1970’s. In recent years the building has been underutilized. This dearth of programming has made the Center somewhat of a financial liability for its property owner, which has been Sonoma County Regional Parks. By the end of this year, Regional Parks is transferring the building over to the County’s General Services Department.

Some people in town feel the building itself is dysfunctional and an eyesore to the community.

A basic question stands out – what to do with the building?

A group of volunteers from Occidental has been meeting for two years to address this very question. Called the Occidental Community Center Advisory Council (OCCAC), the group has been having ongoing meetings with local groups and County officials.

The goal of the group has been to assess community needs, brainstorm possible ways these needs can be met and present these ideas to the Occidental community for their deliberation. More specifically, a report will be presented to the community in early 2016.

Very basically, the OCCAC has concluded and will be advising that three options be considered for the building:

Leave the building as is. Revitialize the Center by bringing in innovative programming, organizations and activities that will make the Center economically self-sufficient

Redesign/remodel the building. Make physical improvements to the building to make it both more functional and attractive. Depending on funding, new construction expenditures would either modestly or extensively address interior and possibly exterior needs.

Demolish the building. A park would replace the existing building. A small building or kiosk would be built with a meeting room and restrooms.

The OCCAC has researched a number of programming possibilities for revitalizing the Center (option one above). Some of them are:

Keep the gym open and available for sports activities

Introduce satellite programming and classes sponsored by the SRJC

Establish an after school program for students at Salmon Creek School

Develop senior programming and services working with the Russian River Senior Center

Have the current tenant – Sonoma County Family YMCA – sublease space to individuals/groups offering workshops and special events.

Regarding redesigning the building (option two above), The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors has recently authorized funding to Praxis Architects to create three design scenarios for the building.

Bottom line, the OCCAC is an advisory body only. It’s goal is to present options to the Occidental community regarding how to best utilize the Occidental community Center space. Its report to the community in early 2016 will include: results of a 2014 community survey; facility design options; programming possibilities; management of the facility; and funding sources.