Rec center poised for large-scale renovation

One of The City’s oldest and most popular recreation centers is finally slated for demolition this week after a decade of securing funding, sketching renderings and preparing Chinatown residents for its reconstruction.

The renovation of the Chinese Recreation Center at 1199 Mason St. is one of the largest open-space capital projects funded by voter-approved money, with about $21 million set aside through bonds since 2000.

Generations of children have grown up playing basketball and other sports at the concrete center built in 1951, but the building is not stable enough to withstand an earthquake, according to officials at the Department of Public Works.

“The building, it is not unsafe but it’s not seismically safe to resist a seismic force,” senior architect Peter Wong said. “We’re talking about a totally new facility for the community, not just the rec center’s interior, but also the exterior.”

Its seismic liabilities put it at the top of a capital-projects list in 2008, though it was already on the list of projects benefitting from a 2000 parks bond.

Now, a three-story green-certified facility with 21,680 square feet, three multipurpose rooms, a gymnasium, a preschool play area and several other amenities is planned for completion within 18 months.

The construction contract was awarded to local company Plant Construction at almost half the price the Recreation and Park Department anticipated paying.

“We can thank the competitive economy for that,” Wong said.

In the meantime, classes have been temporarily moved to playgrounds and centers in the immediate area, and rec directors have been sifting through decades of equipment figuring out what should stay and what should go.

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