Karate teacher Sue Miller and her students are ready to come back home to Orange Memorial Park, where the new recreation building is opening today.
Next week, Miller’s karate class, which has been held at various locations throughout the city, will return to a new 60,000-square-foot, $6.2 million facility that replaced a 57-year-old building despite objections to its design and a 50 percent increase in costs.
“The older building had some character to it because of all the woodwork,” Miller said. “No matter how run down it was, it was like home to us and we had a hard time leaving, but we couldn’t wait to move back. Looking at this new building, it has just as much character, if not more.”
After a year in construction and more than a decade in planning, the new building ended up costing $2 million more than was originally planned. But according to Sharon Ranals, the funds were obtained from federal grants and developers’ fees rather than residents’ pockets.
The increased costs helped pay for the building’s green features, such as recycled glass countertops, high-efficiency energy performance on lighting and heating, and an efficient drainage system. She said because of the building’s large windows, use of lighting during the day would be minimized.
A much-needed restroom will be open to Orange Park visitors, but its location outside will keep them from interrupting classes held inside, a common problem at the old building, she said.
When the new building was proposed in 2004, some residents objected to its design, which features a winged roof that protrudes beyond the building’s walls.
“We were looking for something that would make a statement,” Councilmember Rich Garbarino said. “It’s bold and it’s structurally much different from anything we’ve ever done. I think it looks good in the park. Besides, once people start to use it, they won’t be concerned about what it looks like.”