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What to expect for Barrett’s redesign

Group 4 members address the flaws in the indoor facilities at Barrett Community Center.

Aaron Penn

Group 4 members address the flaws in the indoor facilities at Barrett Community Center.

Aaron Penn, Staff Writter

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“One of the great things about Barrett is that it’s almost exactly in the heart of the city,” said Jonathon Hartman.

Hartman, along with several others, are working as part of Group 4, an organization hired by the city to facilitate the redesign of Barrett community center.

Barrett’s facilities, which were built in 1949, were originally designed to be a school, but closed in 1989 due to a lack of students. Since then, it has served as a park and community center, hosting soccer games, HeartBeat Dance Academy, Footsteps Child Care and more.

On March 28, Group 4 held a meeting for community members to share and debate their ideas for the new layout of the center. Everyone who attended was handed colored stickers and were allowed to vote on different ideas in three different categories: indoor activities, outdoor activities, and indoor spaces. The meeting served as a pool of ideas, likes, and dislikes about Barrett to help give Group 4 a first draft of what kind of features the center might need.

“I do believe the design should be very similar to how it’s already laid out. I believe the buildings should remain where they are. If the field was on that side of the property, the noise would definitely be an issue,” said Valerie Dohrenewd, who has been a Belmont resident for 35 years.

Several other factors will play into the structuring of Barrett. Being in a community with a lot of dog owners, one of the most brought-up topics during the meeting was the issue of sectioning off an area for the dogs. This is a complicated problem as of now. Due to safety regulations, dogs can only be off leash at certain times. Many Belmont citizens own dogs, so having them share a field with kids can cause sanitation problems.

This issue will likely be a key factor if the community decides to change up the field. Many community members who attended the meeting discussed the possibility of breaking it up into multiple parts for different sports, or possibly using turf instead of grass for sports. If so, a sanctioned dog area may be the best option to give the dogs more freedom while still emphasizing the use of the field for sports and other outdoor activities.

In addition to a possible reconstruction of its field, Barrett’s facilities will be looked at heavily during the redesigning process.

“It’s literally crumbling; there’s no prettier way to say it. I’m honestly surprised they’ve lasted this long,” said Brennan Dai, a Carlmont sophomore who lives in Belmont.

“As far as the buildings go, I think they will get rid of the small hallway layout they currently have. I think there’s going to be some large rooms for activities and sports, but also some smaller ones for dance, or tech centers and stuff like that,” Dai said.

Not only did Group 4 ask the community what features they wanted, but also what they wanted Barrett to be for them. Many people who attended the meeting liked the idea of having a mixed diverse community in regards to age.

Dohrenewd said, “As we get older, we don’t have as much communication with younger kids and I think it would be nice to have that kind of communication in some way. Barrett should be for everyone, so that people can get together in a more communal way.”

This topic was actively addressed on multiple occasions during the meeting. Many were in favor of creating a more welcoming picnic area near the play structures and field instead of the existing one, which consists of only a few benches here and there in the shade. In regards to attracting more youth, ideas like having a cafe, gymnasium, music or art studio, a pool, or even an ice rank are in the mix.

Although most of the meeting was spent discussing the factors and limitations that would go into the redesign, enhancing the features Barrett already has, such as the teen zone, is a major factor in bringing in middle school and high school students. This is because the teens are some of the “key stakeholders” for Barrett’s community, according to Hartman.

“I think the teen zone is fantastic. It’s had so much success after being open for only a year or so. I see so many people committed to going there every day. They love the activities and they love the director. If [Belmont] were to open a larger teen zone, or have different areas for different ages of kids, that would be great. They could get middle schooler and high schoolers; it would really help create a more diverse community,” Dai said.

A lot of the planning for the community center will depend on the funding. As of now, no budget has been allocated by the city. Finance may play a major role in deciding what can and can’t be built.

“Every community that we’ve worked with is a little different. In our experience, building a pool or something like that is a lot harder of a goal to reach,” Hartman said.

Hartman and the rest of the Group 4 team expect this project to take a few years start to finish. They plan to present their findings to the city council around early September of next year, with a “pretty clear concept of what types of spaces would be in the community center.”

As Group 4 begins to sketch out an idea of the community’s needs for Barrett, which is a place that fosters the idea of community, any Belmont resident is welcome to give their input on the future of the park.

“What really stands out today is there’s been a lot of love for what’s already happening here,” Hartman said.

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What to expect for Barrett’s redesign