SUMMIT, NJ — On Thursday, March 2, the Summit Department of Community Programs invited residents to attend an open house information session about the new Community Center building to be located at 100 Morris Ave. in Summit, where officials reviewed building plans and the proposed construction schedule for the renovations.
“The new Community Center will include 11,600 square feet of additional space, with an expanded senior lounge, full-sized gym, additional restrooms, enhanced meeting spaces, an area for teens, kitchen space, improved parking, and accessibility improvements,” Summit public information associate Megan Trindell said in an email on Mar. 3.
The Community Center is expanding to make it more accessible to people of all ages. However, the exterior of the building will keep its traditional appearance.
“We deliberately changed the name of the building from the ‘Recreation Center’ to the ‘Community Center,’” Judith Josephs, the director of community programs, said at the event on Mar. 2. “We want this to be a place where all members of the community can come together. We will keep the brick building and Colonial spirit. We want a classic look that will stand the test of time.”
Residents from the community asked questions and raised concerns they had regarding the new plans which include a new 35-spot parking lot, covered drop-off area, individual check-in, larger bathrooms and offices, gymnasium, multi-game room and senior lounge.
The new parking lot will be located on Morris Court, and residents of the street wanted to make sure the parking lot wouldn’t be an intrusion. Their concerns about the lighting in the parking lot were also addressed, and they were assured that there wouldn’t be a glare.
“We will be moving the bocce court and we will take it apart and move it when we’re ready,” Josephs said at the event on Mar. 2. “We will dismantle it and it will be moved to the right of the parking lot. It will be more visible and outside the senior lounge. The new senior lounge will include a lobby, bathrooms and kitchen area. We have a lot of flexibility with the building. We have met all project requirements and all our bases are covered with the design.”
Residents also requested that a playground be added to the center, but the request was denied.
“We cannot put a playground where there is no place of safety nearby,” Josephs said at the event on Mar. 2. “We are working with Briant Park to put one there because it’s quite isolated here where we could build one down the hill. It takes time, research and money.”
Summit is currently seeking the support of residents to help build a playground at Briant Park.
“We would like to convince them to put a playground there,” program supervisor Jamie Colucci said at the event on Mar. 2. “I wouldn’t let my kids play here but Briant Park is beautiful. If anyone would like to support me on that it’d be great.”
Residents were assured that the new community center will be highly secure, with security cameras at the entrances and motion detectors throughout the building.
“We will be much better off,” Josephs said at the event on Mar. 2. “We’ll feel safer in this big building with so many nooks and crannies. Another improvement will be a sound system that will allow us to make announcements and page people over an intercom service. We will also switch to gas and efficiencies will be much better. The new gym will have maple floors just like the existing gym.”
Residents were also informed about the upcoming construction and how it will impact programs held at the community center.
“We are anticipating the groundbreaking date will be late summer, between August and September,” Architect Tom Potter said at the event on Mar. 2. “The general public will not be permitted here during construction. Programs will be moved such as next year’s summer camp. It will be held at the pool and around the pool area. We will call upon other facilities for help during that time for special events. All other small events might have to be put on hold.”
The new senior lounge will help address the problem that seniors encounter when the kids arrive after school hours.
“We have robust mahjong players,” Josephs said at the event on Mar. 2. “They could stay and play until midnight, but when the kids come for camp or to play after school, they feel the need to go home. With our new senior wing, we hope they will feel more comfortable. We have a bridge group that meets on Monday. We’ll have a cozy lobby with a coffee bar and gas fireplace and television. It’ll be a place where they can relax.
“The beauty of the new gym is that the one gym won’t cause the hallway to get so crowded. We’ll have air conditioner and windows in the gyms. With the help of a FEMA grant, we will be installing a generator to make this a warming and charging station. We will also have a shower for anyone to use with a key.”
The session concluded with refreshments and residents appeared satisfied with the information.
“My only concern is what it will look like visually,” Emily LaJewnesse of Summit told LocalSource in an interview after the session on Mar. 2. “It sounds like a decent plan though. There will be bushes and greenery which sounds nice.”
Residents were also happy about the addition of the new gym.
“I’m new to the advisory board and seeing how they communicate with the community,” Matthew Cohen of Summit told LocalSource in an interview after the session on Mar. 2. “We need places to play basketball and it’s nice to hear from people that live nearby. It was nice hearing everyone’s concerns and they handled everything professionally.”
A planning board review is scheduled for March 27.