By Sandra Gramley, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C
Civic projects are the crux of what we do. Designing Park de la Cruz Neighborhood Park & Therapeutic Recreation Services (TRS) in City Heights was especially rewarding for us because we were truly designing for universal use.
The intention of our client, the City of San Diego, was to transform the decaying former Copley YMCA building and gymnasium into a new TRS facility. As such, the project has traditional accommodations but also those for wheelchair basketball, indoor soccer and a calendar full of special events and activities. Accessibility upgrades were a specific priority for the entire project.
Beyond ADA and other code requirements, the entire renovation was designed for the community to be able to easily access and use all the facilities. San Diego is now one of only a few cities nationwide that has a dedicated facility for TRS services. The TRS facility at Park de la Cruz is able to offer services and activities for those with disabilities and special needs within the community, along with helping veterans and seniors throughout San Diego County.
In addition to designing something for all abilities, the renovation also has a social justice component. This project enhances and encourages recreation and provides much needed services to the mid-city community of San Diego—a community historically left behind when it came to new and upgraded parks.
Our design even includes a daycare space, providing the opportunity to address a frequent barrier to employment – the availability of childcare. The governor of California, Gavin Newsom, emphasized the prominence and importance of Park de la Cruz when he held a news conference there in April about a new pop-up vaccination site in the City Heights neighborhood.
The design and implementation of the buildings’ renovation was preceded by a renovation of the adjoining seven-acre park, led by Schmidt Design Group in conjunction with Stantec. Features include a new skate park, a softball field and an outdoor multipurpose basketball court. Additional amenities added were picnic shelters, accent trees, sports lighting, solar canopy, drinking fountains, accessibility for persons with disabilities and path of travel improvements.
Our renovation of the 24,000-square foot TRS facility included offices and conference rooms for the staff, a commercial kitchen and a training kitchen, and outdoor and indoor areas for exercise and activities. Also integrated are rooms specifically for those with special needs and a variety of multi-purpose rooms for games, daycare, special events and dances, as well as for rentable space.
Gymnasium improvements include large insulated translucent windows with removable colored polycarbonate panels, fiberglass-sandwich-panel unit skylights, renovated restrooms and offices, new roofing, and new finishes, along with added air-conditioning and lighting improvements.
Earlier this year, Park de la Cruz earned an award from the American Public Works Association (APWA). We’re grateful for the chance to contribute to this terrific community resource that will serve San Diegans for generations to come.