Center revamp elicits support

Efforts are under way to transform the Fletcher Cover Community Center from a dark and dilapidated building into a comfortable, attractive gathering space with dazzling ocean views.

A small group of volunteer design professionals, community members and city staff have been developing a plan to improve the center since the City Council made it a top priority last year.

After learning the bluffs beneath the center are expected to erode within 50 to 75 years, the group decided it was better to refurbish the existing building, rather than tear it down and construct a new one.

Taking input from the group, Solana Beach architect Stephen Dalton designed conceptual remodel plans, which were presented to the council July 8.

The remodel does not call for the building to be expanded, but does replace much of the western facing wall with large sliding glass doors that can be opened onto a patio with sweeping ocean views.

“We wanted to open the building up so events could spill out onto the patio spaces around the building,” Dalton said.

The building, which was originally used as military barracks, will be gutted and given new walls, insulation, windows, fixtures and roof.

The restrooms and kitchen will be moved to the north end of the building to open up the southern end to the adjacent patio and park. The south wall will also be filled with windows to let in more light.

The project will greatly improve accessibility for wheelchair users. It is also incorporating many green elements and is aiming for high marks for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

The council applauded the design, giving the green light to develop more detailed plans, a construction budget and complete the required environmental review process.

“It’s going to be a very usable, beautiful, light, bright space,” said Councilwoman Lesa Heebner.

Along with the building, the grounds around it will be improved and re-landscaped. Mayor Mike Nichols, a landscape architect who designed Fletcher Cove Park before being elected to the council, envisioned several patios and a small artificial lawn closest to the community center. The rest of the bluff will be enhanced with drought-tolerant landscaping and a meandering walkway down the back of the hill will connect the facility to the park below.

The city has funds to pay for some of the accessibility improvements, however, the bulk of the project will be funded by community donations. The newly formed Solana Beach Foundation and the Solana Beach Civic and Historical Society will spearhead the grassroots fundraising campaign. Those efforts will ramp up later this year, after final plans are drawn up and a budget for the project is established.

Judy Hegenauer, president of the civic and historical society, which meets monthly at the community center, was optimistic about the fundraising campaign.

“We already have people saying they’ll pay for the door, or part of the floor,” Hegenauer said.