Conceptual plans unveiled for new Daniel Island Recreation Center

Daniel Island is getting a new, fully equipped $8 million community recreation center in Governors Park, courtesy of the City of Charleston, and it is destined to be abuzz with activity as soon as it opens. That much is certain. But, as the city powers through an aggressive timeline to complete the building, a few important questions remain concerning just what will make up the structure’s interior spaces.

Last week, city staffers revealed conceptual designs for the long-anticipated facility, which have been approved by both the City’s Design Review Committee and the Daniel Island Architectural Review Board. The renderings, designed by Rush Dixon Architects and Seamon Whiteside, were slated to go before the City’s Design Review Board on Feb. 5.

“The architectural style is spot on for Daniel Island,” noted Jason Kronsberg, director of parks for the City of Charleston. “When they unveiled the plans, we sort of had this ‘ah-ha’ moment and said this feels really good.”

The current design for the complex includes a gymnasium, multi-purpose room, fitness room, offices, a meeting room, storage, a catering kitchen, restrooms and showers, and an outdoor yoga lawn. Daniel Island’s agrarian history was the direct inspiration for the design, explained Judy Dixon of Rush Dixon Architects. This type of architecture, pulled from agricultural roots, can also be found at the existing concession building at Governors Park.

“That history and context, plus understanding the fun and casual types of functions that are housed in this building really solidified this design direction,” said Dixon. “The building material choice and detailing are selected and will be designed to align with the quality level of Daniel Island and durability requirements of a public building.”

Three years ago, city staffers hosted a series of input sessions on Daniel Island and the Cainhoy peninsula to gather input on the types of parks and recreation amenities desired by residents. In all of those sessions, attended collectively by hundreds of community members, a new recreation center “was always front and center,” added Kronsberg.

Kronsberg and his team then sat down with the architects and came up with a program based on the city’s budget for the project, square footage, operational constraints, and lessons learned from other facilities.

“And then Rush’s charge was to kind of fit that all into an envelope (for creating) this great civic building that really says ‘Here I am…this is our city’s commitment to Daniel island and its citizens.’”

As per the Daniel Island Development Agreement, the city is required to start turning dirt on the project later this year.

“We are on a fast track schedule because we have to break ground on this in September,” said Kronsberg. “So we are doing everything we can to meet that schedule…The site plan will develop over time…We have a lot to do on the landscape, but we feel pretty good about the architecture.”

On Jan. 30, Daniel Island Recreation Center Committee members Frank Walsh and Marcia Miller, both Daniel Island residents, were briefed on the plans. On behalf of the community, Walsh and Miller have been offering input and feedback to city staffers on the project for a couple of years now. While both seemed pleased with the exterior design, they had a couple of questions about the interior.

An earlier version of the plan outlined a possible 28,000 square foot facility that featured an indoor track above the basketball courts in the gym, a multi-purpose room, and seven rooms for meetings and other community gatherings. The recently unveiled renderings show a scaled back, 20,300 square foot space with no track, one large multi-purpose room (that can be divided into two spaces), one small conference room and one fitness room for exercise equipment.

“It has a lovely outside design and I have no doubt that it will look like it fits in,” said Walsh. “My concern is answering our community’s wants and needs…The things on the top of people’s list were the meeting rooms, the track, and the fitness equipment at the four corners of the track, which freed up the other rooms for activities…And those are the things that are kind of missing here…It’s disappointing.”

But according to Laurie Yarbrough, director of recreation for the City of Charleston, the biggest request from community members for the new facility was space for basketball and volleyball.

“That was the number one request when we met with the Daniel Island community three years ago,” she said.

“And that’s what I get a phone call about every day,” added Charleston City Councilman Gary White, a Daniel Island resident who has been a longtime advocate of bringing the new facility to the community. “…This is an $8 million recreation and community center. This is nice.”

According to city staffers, the cost to add the indoor track to a second level in the gymnasium would be about $1.6 million - which would push the project way over budget. And they are limited on how big the facility can be due to site constraints. But the ideas expressed by Walsh and Miller were taken into consideration - and the facility team is now looking to see if designs can be reconfigured to create more space for special programs.

“We have a lot of groups on the island - fishing clubs, garden clubs, sewing clubs, bridge clubs,” said White. “It will be heavily, heavily used space, so it would be good if we can find a way to have other rooms…We want to design these rooms with the ability to have multiple functions.”

The city will begin cost estimating on the suggested interior changes and determine if the footprint of the building can be adapted in any way, said Kronsberg. In the meantime, all continues to move forward to meet the fall groundbreaking deadline.

“This plan here will change,” added White. “It will change, but it won’t change massively.”

Both Walsh and Miller were eager to hear what the community’s reaction to the plans would be when they were presented to members of the Daniel Island Neighborhood Association on Tuesday, Feb. 6 (details on the meeting will be featured in next week’s issue of The Daniel Island News).

“What we get, whether the community is happy with it, we can’t answer that yet,” said Walsh.

“We have to hear from the people,” added Miller.

But the city is confident the facility will be well received and utilized, after a long planning process that engaged all stakeholders. Construction is expected to take about 12 to 18 months to complete.

“It’s a recreation center that will serve the community,” added Yarbrough, who said the facility will be staffed seven days a week. “And it’s going to be a very active site!”


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Daniel Island, SC 29492 

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