Coon Rapids City Council involves others in future of Riverwind

Contributing Writer

The Coon Rapids City Council Sept. 26 involved others in the discussion on the future of the Riverwind Community Building on Northdale Boulevard.

Members of the Coon Rapids Parks and Recreation Commission, Riverwind users and others interested in its future were invited to the meeting, which included a tour of the facility led by Gregg Engle, city parks supervisor.

A council decision on the future of Riverwind is needed because the city will be redeveloping and upgrading the adjacent Riverwind Park in 2018 with dollars from the park referendum approved by voters in November 2013.

The concept at the time of the referendum was to demolish the building, but in discussions at a council work session in November 2016, there was a desire to preserve at least part of the building to include meeting space, bathrooms and running water, while former Council Member Denise Klint, who retired from the council at the end of 2016, suggested a fundraising campaign which she would be willing to lead.

In March, the council directed staff to work with Coon Rapids-based architect Mike Kraft on options and cost estimates to salvage a portion of the building and integrate it into the park project.

Kraft presented three options and at a work session in May, the council chose the option that kept the “A” entrance and space on either side, including two meeting rooms and restrooms accessible to park users, at an estimated cost of $322,291.

Two areas at either end of the building – the portion that housed the former Element Teen Center and the former showers used when the Riverwind swimming pool was open – would be demolished.

But when the council had a work session Aug. 2 on having Kraft complete plans and specifications for the preferred option to be included in the bid package for the park project late this year for construction in 2018, the council hit the pause button.

That was because no funding sources had been identified for the project and prior to giving Kraft the go ahead for final design work, which would cost $20,000, the council wanted to nail down project funding and where it would come from, including fundraising.

According to Ryan Gunderson, there are four main groups that use Riverwind for meetings – four to five Girl Scout troops, a Liberian church (House of Christ), the Anoka County Radio Club and a visitation group for custody of children.

Representatives of the Girl Scout troops and the church were at the Sept. 26 meeting, along with commission members, Klint and a couple of members of the Coon Rapids Lions Club.

Both Rev. Adrian Lai, pastor of the church, and the Girl Scout troop leaders supported the renovation project and a fundraising effort.

“We are very concerned about losing our meeting space,” said one Girl Scout troop leader. “The girls do projects here for badges and Riverwind is near and dear to them”

His church has a “passion” for the building and wants to be involved in a fundraising campaign, according to Lai.

Klint is ready to start the fundraising effort as soon as the council makes a commitment to the project, she said.

“I’m ready to get the ball rolling,” Klint said. “Tell us how much you need.”

But before the council makes that decision, it wants to hear from the user groups about their “wish list.”

To that end, city staff and architect Kraft will meet with user group representatives to find out their needs and report back to council at a future work session, the precursor to the council making a final decision.

According to Public Works Director Tim Himmer, a Riverwind renovation project does not have to be done in tandem with the park improvements, but a footprint has to be determined as part of the final plans for the park work which are currently in progress.

“If the project is done right, we can rent it 365 days a year,” Gunderson said.

The building opened as a private Riverwind Country Club in 1964 complete with a swimming pool and had a membership of 671 families, but in January 1971, the club voted to turn over operations of Riverwind and the pool to the city, effective Feb. 1, 1971, because sewer assessments had made it economically impossible to operate a private club, according to a Coon Rapids Herald newspaper story.

The city closed the swimming pool many years ago because of maintenance and safety issues. Starting in 2002, Riverwind was home to the Element Teen Center and used for meetings by various community groups.

The teen center closed June 1 as the council entered into an agreement with Youth First Community of Promise, which serves Andover, Anoka and Ramsey, to provide programs for youth in Coon Rapids. That began this past summer.