Some Manitou residents and people who participate in activities at Manitou Community Center hope to convince Metro Parks Commission not to sell it to a developer. Metro Parks Commission examined the possibility of declaring the building as surplus and putting it up for sale at a meeting Jan. 23.
The building, located on South 66th Street, originally was Manitou Elementary School. Metro Parks obtained the building in 1992 from Tacoma Public Schools after a replacement school was built a few blocks away.
Shon Sylvia, director of recreation and community services for Metro Parks, said it began offering activities and classes in 1995. These include sewing, art, gardening and Girl Scouts.
In 2005, an architectural firm was hired to assess the condition of the structure. It determined the building had several system failures, including a roof that needs replacing.
Commissioner Aaron Pointer noted that several years ago the agency was provided with an estimate that a sale of the building could generate between $450,000 and $600,000.
The attorney for Metro Parks told Pointer that at this point it is not possible to determine what the building would sell for because of the current flux of real estate prices.
Several people testified during the public comment portion. Ginny Eberhardt from West End Neighborhood Council said the Empty Bowls fundraising event has been held at the center for 13 years. She said the daycare center provides a needed service, as do arts classes. She feels the benefit the center provides to the community is more important than any revenue Metro Parks would generate from selling it. "It is needed by the people who live there."
Susan Tallungan has operated her daycare center in the building for 16 years. She has taken over subleasing space in the facility. One example is a group that gathers there to play pinochle.
"Manitou really works well for all of these programs," Tallungan said. She urged the commission not to sell it. "We have a lot of heart, but not a lot of money."
Kimberly Bernhoff lives a few blocks away. She said her young daughter utilizes the daycare and it is an important asset to the neighborhood.
Manitou resident Heidi White said when plans were developed for South Tacoma Activity and Recreation (STAR) Center, which will open later this year a few blocks to the east, she thought activities at Manitou Community Center would be relocated there. She said she was disappointed to learn that was not the case.
White said she feels misled by STAR Center, which is a large complex meant to draw people from around the city. "That makes me feel like I cannot trust Metro Parks."
Venus Dorgan, another neighborhood resident, said she has opposed STAR Center from the beginning because it will serve the region, not Manitou. She mentioned signs that were recently erected in the neighborhood describing Manitou as a great place to grow up. The potential loss of the daycare center contradicts that statement, in her view. She also complained about losing the community garden if the center is sold. "That would be very sad to me."
Frank Blair said he grew up in Manitou. He told commissioners the center serves an important function for people who do bead work and take martial arts classes within its walls.
"To us, it is home," he said. "The newspapers call it dilapidated and shabby."
County Councilmember Tim Farrell urged the commission to consider the needs of the community prior to making their decision. That decision is scheduled to be announced during the Feb. 13 meeting.