Wellness center shapes up

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After 15 years of proposals, debates, scandal, cancellations and re-designs, the first actual building on the long-jinxed corner lot may begin in Spring 2015.

An ambitious wellness center and aquatic complex is planned for the dirt field by Parking Lot O, near the corner of East H Street and Otay Lakes Road. Total footprint of the project is 75, 250 square feet, total estimated cost is more than $31 million.

Prop R Bond Project Manager Mark Claussen said he hopes to start construction as early as May.

The wellness center will have three levels. Level one will house the basketball court, ticket window, event lobby and athletic locker rooms. Level two will have a fitness/cardio exercise room, community classrooms and locker rooms and storage for the pool. Level three will host a multipurpose exercise room and faculty offices. Claussen said the wellness center should be complete by Fall 2017.

Once the wellness center is finished, the existing gymnasium and pools will be demolished to make way for a new Math Science and Engineering (MSE) building, another Prop R bond project.

“We can’t do anything with that until we blow up the existing pools and the gym,” said Claussen. “The plan right now, if we can get it done right, (is to) start the demolition of the existing pools as early as February of 2016.”

Schematics for the MSE building are about 90 percent complete according to documents presented by Claussen. He said a presentation to the board is scheduled in December.

Architecture instructor Diana De La Torre said design for the East H Street side of the gym could be improved. She said it does not fit what Gensler, the company designing the wellness center, is known for.

“That corner is so prominent and it just seems that facade seems a little conservative,” she said. “I just feel like it doesn’t really express where we want to go. I’m not sure if it’s as dynamic as we’d like it to be, because that corner is so important.”
Gensler principle architect Tom Heffernan said that side of the gym is a challenge.

Heffernan and Claussen presented three possible designs for the building to the governing board incorporating original Mayan glyphs designed by Art Historian Dr. Mark Van Stone, a Mesoamerica expert.

Heffernan said their first design would have a more textile effect with the glyphs into the concrete wall. He said it is a more conservative approach to the project. The second design would increase the scale of the glyphs and would be backlit, illuminating the symbols at night. He said the second design would “step the scale of the building down” and make the size of the gym less imposing.

Heffernan said the third proposed design would be more dramatic and would utilize the glyphs into the entire design of the building. He said the idea was in response to the community saying they would like to see something more dynamic that celebrates SWC. The gymnasium would be shrouded in a frosted glass screen and would be completely illuminated at night.

Parking underneath the gymnasium was considered by the designers, but it would have profoundly altered the total size of the facility.

“If we add parking underneath (the gym) that would (mean) a much bigger building on that corner,” said Claussen. “That’s one of the precepts of design. We’re trying to mitigate that size and that kind of monolithic building, which is the nature of big buildings like gyms.”

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  • Laura Randall

    So in the community meeting regarding this project I asked the question if the existing pools would stay open until the new facility was opened. I was told YES. Why would we be lied to in that meeting?