Richfield city officials have decided that building a community center on a key piece of property isn't feasible, given the financial burden it would put on the city and residents.
Officials cited other reasons to hold off, including the uncertainty of people's post-pandemic plans and the desire of the Minneapolis-Richfield American Legion, which owns the property, to sell to an entity that could lease it as meeting space.
"Every single council member expressed strong feelings that now was not the time," Mayor Maria Regan Gonzalez said.
The idea of building a community center with recreational space has lingered in Richfield for more than two decades. A 1999 referendum brought a community center proposal to voters, but it was defeated nearly 4 to 1.
It arose again a few months back when American Legion officials announced they were selling their property, which is next to Richfield's Veterans Park. The site's proximity to the park and other municipal amenities would make it ideal for a community center, city officials have said.
"That's why this conversation is happening right now," Regan Gonzalez said. "We needed to get the consideration of a community center addressed up front."
But city officials estimate a new community center would cost $40 million to $90 million, not including space for parking and expenses such as demolition or soil correction.
Owners of a $250,000 home would see a tax increase of $227 to $393 depending on the center's price tag, and even a community center on the low end of the scale would nearly double the tax levy used to service the city's debt.
Richfield's sole community center, in a former library built in 1961, doesn't have fitness space or a pool, though the city has private workout facilities such as LA Fitness and Snap Fitness.
The city runs an outdoor pool, ice arena, athletic fields and courts, and Wood Lake Nature Center, which has a gathering space and meeting room.
But some residents want more amenities such as indoor playgrounds, banquet facilities and an indoor gym and track, said Amy Markle, Richfield's recreation services director.
Markle said building and running a community center would increase property taxes too much and make it hard for the city to finish other projects.
Instead, she suggested completing a facilities study, looking into recreation options created with the ice arena's dry floor, and rebranding the existing community center so people see it as more than a senior center. Updating the nature center could also meet some recreation needs, she said.
"The big thing I want residents to know is [a new community center] is cost-prohibitive, but we'll do everything we can to address needs and desires in recreation," Markle said.
Officials will explore a future community center when the time is right, she added.
City officials in December placed a seven-month moratorium on development in the vicinity of Veterans Park, including the Legion property, while officials research their options.
The moratorium doesn't prohibit selling the land, but Legion officials have said they believe it hurts their prospects.
Peter Coyle, an attorney for the Legion, said that selling the land to the city for future use as a community center doesn't align with the Legion's needs.
"We think we are the wrong property at the wrong time," Coyle said.
Erin Adler • 612-673-1781