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Will Roxbury Park Transform Into Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater?

Some Recreation & Park commissioners and staff joke when the Roxbury Park Master Plan is completed, their natural hair color will be gray. It’s been a long and emotional project.

Meetings, meetings and more meetings. Spanning over almost two-years, the process has included commission meetings with residents, stakeholders, homeowner associations, Little League groups, high- school PTA parents and seniors before settling on a revitalization park plan to send to the City Council.

Some residents agreed with the proposal, others were not so ready to okay a major renovation to one of the City’s most beloved jewels. When it first went to the council in July 2007, residents were concerned about safety, parking, an increase in traffic and the two-story community center that might affect nearby neighbors. This sparked local resident, Peggy Kaus, to start a Web site.  

Whether they agreed or disagreed, all residents were allowed ample opportunity to voice their opinion. The matter was treated with sensitivity, addressing concerns before the City Council adopted the recommendation last spring.

The five-members directed the plan back to the Recreation & Parks Commission to begin “phase one,” giving shape to the buildings: the community center, the park ranger station and the tennis building.

The Albert Group Architects, hired to design the buildings in the park, were given certain limitations on where they could put the center because of the two storm drains. On Tuesday the architect Stephen Albert presented three options to the commissioners to review as possibilities for the design of the community center.

The four commissioners, excluding chair Kathi Rothner – who excused herself from the project because she lives within 500 feet, preferred option one -traditional.

The design utilizes brown ledger stone as a base, growing up out of the landscape. The upper level of the community center will be detailed in ipe wood. Albert said, for a visual, think of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater house designed for the Kaufman’s.

Northern light will come in, an extension of the roof will be used as a canopy and the roof will be completed in solar panels.

Inside the community center will house basketball courts (that can also be volleyball courts), two locker rooms, a café with a serving counter that projects onto an outdoor plaza, an exercise room with courtyard, an area for seniors with a folding portico that opens to allow them to view shows in the multipurpose room, and two entrance ways, with restrooms located on the first floor that include one restroom dedicated for seniors only.

Upstairs above the restrooms will be fixed seating, combined with folding seating. There will also be a staff area, an extension of the library, three spaces for the City to rent out, restrooms and the roof will be a garden that can be utilized for any function. There will also be teen rooms.

On the bottom floor, a rock climbing wall will extend to the second floor for park visitors to use.

Residents who attended Tuesday afternoon’s Recreation & Parks Commission meeting asked Albert to make sure the facility could be accessed by residents in wheelchairs or with walkers.

Millie Heller, president of the Beverly Hills Active Adult Club reminded him that every Monday the club hosts 125 people in the center and puts on daily lunches for up to 40 people, staff needs to have easy access to a sufficient kitchen. Staff reassured her those issues have been addressed.

Former opponents to the project voiced their satisfaction with the plan on the table.

“This is a huge improvement,” said Ken Goldman. “For the most part it works. It looks awfully good.”

He said he was encouraged to see the park’s inclusion of soccer fields, urged input when reconfiguring the play area for kids, and was reassured by Albert the solar panels would not generate glare to inconvenience nearby neighbors.

Kaus said the project was still “not a park,” and would bring in too many people from outside areas to the quiet park.  

Cost, time, solar energy points, sustainability, maintenance, safety, security and efficiency of space use were not addressed in the presentation, but suggested be included before Albert presents this to the Planning Commission.

The commissioners will take Albert’s  presentation to the plan’s City Council liaisons, Vice-Mayor Frank Fenton and Councilwoman Nancy Krasne. They will seek input before taking it to the entire City Council in February, according to Recreation & Parks Director Steve Miller.  

The commissioners need to ensure they are headed in the right direction —do the liaisons feel comfortable, what options should be included?

From there, City Council will need to give approval. No funds have been identified for this project, said Miller.

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