First, I am writing this as a resident of the city of Twentynine Palms and the opinions expressed do not represent our city planning commission.
Project Phoenix is critical to the development of downtown Twentynine Palms. The improvements to the infrastructure alone will make the downtown attractive to new businesses, as well as more downtown foot traffic.
Since the city recovered its redevelopment funds there have been many planning meetings concerning what should be the “centerpiece” of public buildings for Project Phoenix. Consequently, there was a lot of input from the residents who attended these meetings. The suggested uses for the public building(s) included library, museum, visitor center, meeting rooms, gymnasium, banquet rooms, internet labs and a commercial kitchen. The city’s hired consulting firm AECOM performed an evaluation and presented a scoring matrix of the results and a gymnasium was number four on the list for primary uses. Yet at every subsequent planning meeting, the gymnasium was the primary function of the now-titled multipurpose building. Comments and requests to consider alternatives, such as a community/conference center along the lines of the Helen Gray Education Center, were just dismissed.
Calling a building with a 24-foot-high ceiling, two retractable basketball goals and a floor with a basketball court outline a multipurpose building is a bit of a misnomer. All of the residents do not attend the planning meetings and review the concept drawings. Therefore, when they read or hear about a multipurpose building, everyone will have a different concept of what constitutes a multipurpose building. If you want to propose a gymnasium, argue for a gymnasium, don’t hide behind another name. Yes, a gymnasium can be used for other events, but it is not optimal for those events.
If the decision for the design of the downtown public building for Project Phoenix was going to be made by the Parks and Recreation Department, this should have been stated in the beginning. Now it appears as if all the public meetings were just a ruse to placate the residents of Twentynine Palms. By using the term “multipurpose building” rather than gymnasium, council and staff could avoid push-back from the community.
After the joint City Council/Planning Commission meeting on July 10, it was evident that the City Council and staff were not going to address many of the inputs from the community and that became even more evident at the City Council meeting on July 23. We are going to have a great downtown and we need venues to support this new downtown area. If we could afford everything, we could have the community/conference center with a gymnasium; however we do not have the funding for everything. We need a first-class community/conference center with meeting and true multi-purpose rooms that can host a variety of events. This will help market the downtown and the city of Twentynine Palms. A gymnasium would be nice to have, but it’s not critical to the future of Twentynine Palms.
We should be putting the funding toward a building that serves the entire community and not a building that fulfills the desires of the few.
The plans have not been finalized and ground has not been broken. There is still time to do what is best for the community.