The old Homer intermediate school building, showing the Homer Boys & Girls Club and gym on the south side of the building at the corner of the Sterling Highway and Pioneer Avenue.
The old Homer intermediate school building on the corner of the Sterling Highway and Pioneer Avenue, as seen in October 2010. It’s now known as the Homer Educational and Recreational Complex, or HERC. (Homer News file photo)

The old Homer intermediate school building, showing the Homer Boys & Girls Club and gym on the south side of the building at the corner of the Sterling Highway and Pioneer Avenue. The old Homer intermediate school building on the corner of the Sterling Highway and Pioneer Avenue, as seen in October 2010. It’s now known as the Homer Educational and Recreational Complex, or HERC. (Homer News file photo)

Homer awards contract to study use of rec complex site

The goal is to help the city understand the maximum use of that property.

The City of Homer awarded Stantec, the engineering firm responsible for constructing the new police station, a roughly $50,000 feasibility study contract to conceptualize two new design proposals for the space where the Homer Education and Recreation Complex, or HERC, is currently located, which includes a new multiuse facility.

The contract was finalized on Monday after the city council voted during the Oct. 25 meeting to award Stantec the contract up to $75,000. Stantec was the only firm to submit a bid response.

“Stantec is going to help us understand how we’re going to get the maximum use of that property. It’s 4.3 acres, and while a multiuse facility is an important asset to the community, it’s not the only thing that’s going to happen on that property,” Julie Engebretsen, deputy city planner, said. “So, how to best utilize or plan for the future of that property is a part of it, as well as providing options for a multiuse facility so we have something to look at to decide if it’s useful to us or if we can afford it.

“When you have a drawing and a conceptual plan, it’s a lot easier for people to comment on it because it’s something to look at and throw darts at, as I like to say. When you’re talking about abstract concepts and nebulous things, it’s a lot harder for people to have specific conversations about. By having things to physically look at and having specific things will really help move this project forward.”

Stantec has a wide network of experts, Engebretsen explained, allowing the firm to connect the city with specialists for every aspect of the HERC project, such as landscape artists and economic analysts.

“Their strengths are an asset as we move forward with the redevelopment of this site,” Engebretsen wrote in a memorandum to the city council in support of hiring Stantec.

The current HERC Campus project is not Stantec’s first time working in Homer or even on the HERC Campus. In 2014, the city conducted a Public Safety Review, which considered the HERC site for a joint fire and police station with Stantec as the consulting firm for the project. After that idea was voted down, Stantec was hired to remodel the fire station and construct the new police station.

“Stantec has a lot of history with us, particularly that site,” Engebretsen explained.

Currently the HERC Campus is home to two buildings — HERC 1 and HERC 2 — a skate park, parking lot and green space on the corner of Sterling Highway and Pioneer Avenue.

HERC 1’s lower level serves as the location for the community recreation program, which features the gymnasium, an activity room, restrooms, storage and areas for outdoor recreation activities. The Parks division uses the upstairs for storage, work space and offices. HERC 2, the smaller building, is used as the home for the Public Works Building Maintenance division, as well as additional city work space.

The goal of the feasibility study is to determine how the space can be better used by both the city and community.

“It’s a large piece of property and we’re only going to be using a modest portion for a new building and parking, so we should be thinking a little bit bigger about what can happen on that property,” Engebretsen said. “It is a great public asset in a great public location, so we want to make sure we’re planning not just for what’s right in front of us today, but what (can be) longer term on that property.”

The city began moving forward with the HERC complex renovation in September when they were made aware of an Economic Development Administration tourism grant that would help fund the demolishing of the current buildings and build a new multiuse facility. City Manager Rob Dumouchel said Stantec’s proposal may not be ready in time to apply for the EDA grant, but it will be useful for future grant applications.

“If we finish with a project that fits the EDA grant guidelines, we’ll definitely go in that direction,” Dumouchel said. “If not, we have a good, viable project that we can pursue other lines of funding with.”

In order to hear public feedback, the city will conduct a community-wide online survey in the near future for people to share their concerns, ideas and suggestions with Stantec and the city.

Additionally, the Homer City Council will hold a work session at 4 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 6 with Stantec to discuss the latest work on the HERC site and what council would like the achieve with the proposal Stantec designs. The Cowles Council Chambers are currently undergoing renovations to upgrade the microphone system, so limited seating will be available.

The meeting will also be livestreamed via Zoom.

For more information, visit www.cityofhomer-ak.gov/citycouncil/city-council-worksession-182.

Reach reporter Sarah Knapp at sarah.knapp@homernews.com.

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