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Community Commons Committee continues to discuss options

The Community Commons Committee met on Wednesday, Dec. 11, for its second meeting of the year and went over many subjects including the old and new options for the future of parts of the Community Commons building.

“I thought our first meeting was really positive and really productive, and I felt really good about the discussions that were taking place,” New Richmond School District Superintendent Jeff Moberg said. “I think overall it was a healthy and positive step.”

Another topic that Moberg hit on during the meeting was the potential of bias toward the Community Commons situation in the many different forms it can take.

“We all come with a bias, some thoughts and ideas and that is OK,” Moberg said. “But it is important as a group to understand that what we are creating here is going to be here, potentially, for a long, long time. If we want a library here simply because we want to save the 1926 portion of the old building, that isn’t a good enough reason to have a library there. If we have a library there because it meets the needs of a library, then that is an excellent reason to have a library there.”

Moberg went on to say that he did not intend to insult anyone’s integrity, but instead he wanted to make sure that everyone was aware of the potential for bias in a project that can be very emotional for many people.

The committee also talked about the walk through the Cuningham Group performed with a group of representatives from the library and the city on Tuesday, Dec. 10.

“This was a more thorough walk through than we have had done before for this space and basically what we did was open all three floors up and talked about the potential of the space,” New Richmond City Administrator Mike Darrow said. “We discussed having the new library in that space and then had them review some of the existing systems.”

The next step in the process is for the Cuningham Group, which conducted the walk through, to come back and present its findings to the Commons Advisory Committee on Feb. 5. At that meeting the Cuningham Group will be able to provide the committee with additional cost estimates, operational cost analysis and allow them to talk about the Makers Space the library feels it needs to be a great community space.

The committee also discussed many of the established brainstorming ideas the group had come up with at its first meeting. Among those topics was the possibility of the Centre making use of the gym space, as well as the space possibly being used by a private developer or trying to bring in other partners to rent the space available.

One of the new ideas the committee talked about was the possible reduction of the Community Commons footprint. The main section of the building which the group has looked at taking down to reduce the amount of space the Commons needs to take care of includes the 1926 portion.

“We are trying to create sustainability for 90,000 square feet, using 7,000 square feet,” Moberg said. “We also need to balance in a potential for growth, but it is probably going to be pretty tough to make 90,000 square feet go and keep it updated, heated and functional off the backs of 7,000. If we look at the footprint of the building we have to ask if there are opportunities to make a space that is sustainable for us and still meets everybody’s needs.”

Another topic the group discussed was the 7,000 square feet that will be available next year after WITC vacates its location at the Commons. The committee is hoping to fill that space with another tenant or move around some of its current tenants. The group also is going to be looking at the costs of “moth-balling” the unused parts of the Commons at its next meeting with some added cost analysis.

The group will meet again on Feb. 5, at 4:30 p.m.

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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