Architects adjust Teen Center layout

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By Arin McKenna

In mid-April, teens and community members got their first glimpse of a proposed design for a new teen center.
The Los Alamos County council approved $4.2 million in funding in FY2013 to design and remodel the community building for use as a teen center. The remaining tenants at the building (U.S. Forest Service, New Mexico Extension Service, Youth Activity Center and PAC-8) are to remain in their current locations.
Based on comments submitted at the two public meetings held in April, NCA Architects and Planners, AIA, is currently reworking their proposal. Public meetings to review those designs are planned in June.
NCA’s Project Architect Tom Wilbur made the presentations, along with Los Alamos County Project Manager Wayne Kohlrust.
“What you’re seeing here is a first shot at what it could be, a starting point,” Kohlrust said.
New design options were already being floated during an evening meeting for adult community members, based on feedback at an afternoon session for teens.
The original concept was to have a multipurpose room with a snack bar and dining area, TV area and game area on the main level, along with a quiet zone, two classrooms, a video game room and staff offices.
The lower level would have held a performance area, a practice room, an editing room and a multipurpose space.
“One of the concerns with this particular layout is that the lower level would require a staff member to basically escort the kids down into it, so it was not an open space,” Wilber said. Such an arrangement could create staffing issues and restrict use of the music rooms. “The kids have a strong interest in utilizing the performance area and other music rooms.”
To resolve the issue, Wilber raised the possibility of moving all but one office to the lower level, along with the classrooms, which will always have adult supervision. That would free up space on the main floor for the performance space and music rooms.
Other improvements include rebuilding the deck facing Ashley Pond, replacing windows and the HVAC system and installing a new elevator. Some doors may be replaced with storefront windows to take advantage of the views.
The design will ultimately include improvements to the façade and grounds, but those design elements will come at a later phase.
One attendee asked about soundproofing issues, which was also a concern raised in many of the comment cards.
“We can build any type of wall from an STC (Sound Transmission Class) of 55, that will not allow sound to transmit through at a certain decibel, all the way up to soundproof, depending on how we want to go on it. The wall construction isn’t difficult,” Wilber said.
The space designated for the video game room has some natural sound dampening features, such as concrete walls and a stairwell.
To address an issue raised by the teens, Wilber also suggested designating one room for computers used for gaming and a quiet room for computers designated for study and other purposes.
The teens that wrote comment cards suggested several additional spaces they would like to see included.
The most frequent suggestion was for a recording studio. There were also suggestions for a boulder climbing wall, a basketball court, a weight room, soundproof rooms with IMacs “so kids can blast their music from YouTube,” a karaoke room with mirrors and dance lights and a bouncy room.
Two youths asked for an indoor half pipe (skateboard ramp). “It would be awesome to stay active when the weather is bad.”
Someone also suggested a display area for teen art. “I’d also like to see teen and community art as part of the landscaping and wall decorations.”
A comment apparently from a staffer asked that any walls be half glass to allow for easier supervision, and another asked for adjustable shelves in the snack area to better display the selections.
There were also requests for movie rooms with the lights on their own circuit and separate television spaces for those who wanted to watch TV or movies and those who wanted to game.
NCA and county staff will now consider how to incorporate the feedback they received. The plan is to bring revised designs before the public in late June.
Kohlrust anticipates bidding the project out in early fall and starting construction after the holidays, with a move in date of late July 2015.