Photo by Heather Middleton
By Curt Yeomans
The path to the front entrance of what will soon be Riverdale's new City Hall takes a visitor nearly knee deep into a track left in the mud by the large tire of a piece of construction equipment.
At this point in the building's construction, it's impossible for a person to get into the building, or the city's neighboring community center -- which is also under construction -- without getting a little dirty. The buildings are part of Riverdale's town center project known as "The Promenade."
Still, as the buildings take shape amid the bright, burnt-orange mud, Riverdale Assistant City Manager Doug Manning is looking beyond that -- to what the buildings will be, and do, for the community when they are finished this summer.
He sees people getting married, debutantes being introduced at balls, and cultural events taking place at the town center.
"There are a number of functions we will be able to host here," Manning said. "By way of having it here as a multi-purpose community center, we will be able to meet the needs of our community, and beyond."
Construction of the new City Hall and community center, for which ground was broken in November 2008, is now 70 percent complete, and the buildings are scheduled to open sometime in late July or early August, Manning said. The cost of the project is $19.7 million, he said.
The new, two-story City Hall will be 21,000 square feet in size, according to Manning. It will house a City Council meeting chamber, and offices for city leaders, including one office for each council member.
Manning said the community center will be 42,000 square feet in size. It will feature meeting rooms, a basketball gymnasium with a stage, and a running track that overlooks the gym floor.
"The idea is to create an environment where people can live, work and play all in the same general vicinity," Manning said. "I believe it will begin serving its intended purpose the day it opens. People have wanted this for awhile, and they have been waiting patiently for it to open."
Manning said the town center project is "the brainchild" of City Councilperson Wanda Wallace. Wallace and Manning said the goal is to some day have hotels and shops also built at the town center site, creating a downtown-type area for the City of Riverdale.
Wallace said she has thought Riverdale needed such a place since she moved to the city from New Orleans, La., in 1995. She said Riverdale lacked something akin to New Orleans' French Quarter, or City Park, places where people can gather for social events.
She said she began promoting the idea shortly after taking office in 2000, even writing an open letter to Riverdale residents in 2001, to explain the vision. That vision has been to create a place in the city where people could go to have an indoor or outdoor wedding, or a family reunion, or where people could gather on a lawn for a concert.
"This would be something for the residents to be proud of," Wallace said.
Now, Wallace said, as construction continues on "The Promenade" town center project, "the vision is coming true."