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Neighborhood center needs overhaul to be turned into library, consultant says

The Donald Dungan Library in Costa Mesa would be repurposed into a meeting area if plans succeed to turn the downtown Neighborhood Community Center next door into a central library with more square footage than the city's three library branches combined.
The Donald Dungan Library in Costa Mesa would be repurposed into a meeting area if plans succeed to turn the downtown Neighborhood Community Center next door into a central library with more square footage than the city’s three library branches combined.
(MARK DUSTIN, DAILY PILOT)

Costa Mesa’s Neighborhood Community Center would need major work before it could be converted into a large central library, a city consultant told a crowd of residents Thursday night.

The community center, built in the early 1980s, needs a new roof, doors and windows, as well as plumbing, structural and electrical work, in order to achieve compliance with modern-day building standards, said architect Jim Favaro, of Culver City-based Johnson Favaro.

“It’s not just a simple thing, like, ‘Let’s turn it into something else,’” he said.

Favaro presented his firm’s initial findings on a recent proposal to make the roughly 24,000-square-foot community center into a library that replaces the Donald Dungan branch next door. In turn, the branch would be turned into a meeting space to make up for the community center.

Johnson Favaro will not be performing construction on either building.

He stressed that the building is currently safe to use, but that doing renovations would force City Hall to have it comply with various new state requirements.

The roughly 7,000-square-foot Dungan, which opened in 1987, is in a similar situation. It is in good structural condition, Favaro said. Still, its renovation would bring with it major seismic, electrical, mechanical and plumbing work, he added.

Linda Demmers, Johnson Favaro’s library consultant, noted that Dungan is extremely busy.

“It’s used as much as buildings that are two, three times the size,” she said. “Your public wants the library ... this is a community that really uses its library and attends its programs, but you just don’t have the space.”

To meet the county library system’s various benchmarks, the Dungan would need to be 17,500 square feet, Demmers said, though 20,000 square feet would be ideal.

“I believe it will take you where you want to go,” she said.

Based on the city’s data of who uses the community center and how often, Johnson Favaro estimates that the venue is only being utilized at 30% capacity.

“About a third of the building is used at a third of the time, but the city has to maintain it 100% of the time,” Favaro said.

The center’s most prolific user is the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, which uses the facility 45 days a year for 374 hours.

Based on various interviews, Favaro said many community center renters weren’t even aware of the city’s other meeting space options — like the Costa Mesa Country Club, City Hall, Senior Center and Balearic Community Center — but have long used the community center “out of habit.”

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A new library?

Favaro also presented basic plans for a new, two-story 20,000-square-foot library that could cost nearly the same as renovating the community center and Dungan branch.

Though he declined to give cost estimates, he said demolishing the community center in favor of building a new library would have the added bonus of freeing up more grassy open space in Lions Park.

Some residents commented that the increased library action downtown might also deter Lions Park criminal activity and the homeless from gathering there.

Favaro stressed that Costa Mesa needs to take some kind of action for its community center.

“The building will just continue to deteriorate and become less competitive in time,” he said.

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What’s next

Johnson Favaro will present more updated plans during a to-be-determined meeting in June.

Its findings will then be forwarded to the Parks and Recreation Commission and potentially the City Council for final approval.


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