Architectural Design to Transform a YMCA Building into a Recreation Destination for all Ages and Abilities.
Several years ago, we were honored to transform a 25,000-square-foot YMCA building into a City of San Diego facility accommodating therapeutic recreation services (TRS) for the City Heights neighborhood and its surrounding communities.
In so doing, San Diego became one of the first cities nationwide with a dedicated and customized city TRS destination offering services and activities for community members with disabilities and special needs.
Recently, Sandra Gramley, AIA, returned to Park de la Cruz Neighborhood Park and TRS to reconnect with Kristi Fenick, CTRS, the District Manager of San Diego Parks and Recreation Department, Therapeutic Recreation and Agewell Services. Sandra wanted to know how the facility had evolved, how it was performing and what lessons could be learned for future projects.
We’re happy to report the facility is looking great. Sandra loved seeing that staff added gallery hangers to some of the walls to display work from students who attend the facility’s classes.
Acoustics are always tough in exercise facilities (and when adapting existing buildings), but the perforated gypsum board we specified for the hallways is doing a great job at absorbing sound.
Since many of the existing building’s interior rooms were dark, our team selected tubular skylights to bring natural daylight into lower spaces. Sandra’s visit also allowed her to verify the lighting strategy implemented works well now that the building is fully operational. The facility first opened at the start of the pandemic, which limited occupancy.
A key element of the TRS, Sandra got to tour the sensory room, which is outfitted with light fixtures, interactive toys, a swing and more. We designed the sensory room to give an immersive sensory experience for people with various abilities and to support emotional and cognitive development.
Grant-Funded Community Facility
Park de la Cruz Neighborhood Park and TRS was a project that grew gradually, and our services grew along with it. The initial project budget was just enough for paint and flooring, but the City kept pursuing and securing grant funding. Accordingly, our scope of work increased incrementally. Despite the ladder-stepping structure, the design and construction program appear seamless when you tour the building.
What does Sandy wish we could still do? It’s the same wish Kristi has – to create a party room. The demand is there, as well as rental opportunities, but it wasn’t possible to provide it in the existing building framework or budget.
Our team and theirs recognizes that we could turn an old, unused pool that’s currently being used for storage into a dance hall and party room. However, the City would need to come up with millions more in funding to support the construction costs, which is no small task.
Soon after Sandra’s tour, the City hosted an event to debut and celebrate a garden at Park de la Cruz. Sandra wouldn’t have missed it.
This garden doesn’t just sit there and look pretty, it has work to do! It’s a program garden.
The garden supports classes, clubs and kitchens. In addition to supplying the on-site commercial and teaching kitchens, the garden is used by the Green Thumb Club, Yummy Meals on a Budget class, Let’s Get Cooking class and more.
The well-attended garden debut featured lots of fun activities like sing-alongs, pickle ball, bingo, corn hole and line dancing. A color-by-numbers art mural was very popular, with kids and adults painting designated portions within the butterfly outline created by a local artist.
Park de la Cruz Neighborhood Park and TRS is an asset to the community – from kids to seniors. In a San Diego neighborhood that’s been historically underserved with public resources, seniors-in-need can now visit Park de la Cruz for free lunch five days a week. It’s also a place where people of all ages and abilities have access to a wide array of programs and activities.
We’re proud to support the City in its mission to provide these services in a safe place.
Learn more about the TRS activities and resources available for winter 2023-2024 here.