Berkley Recreation Center

Case Study – Berkley Recreation

2019.09.11-Existing-Building---for Website

Berkley Recreation Center

Bringing a Community Together

Rich in history, Berkley is a tightly knit neighborhood lying just across the Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth River from Downtown Norfolk. Despite the proximity to Downtown, Berkley is a community with its own distinct character and needs. VIA worked closely with residents, civic leagues and City departments to analyze recreational and community support facilities and opportunities in Berkley and on numerous sites throughout Southside Norfolk, the area of the city south of the Elizabeth River.

Following the 2018 closure of an almost 50-year-old concrete swimming pool on the grounds of the St. Helena Elementary School, the project was initiated as an outdoor recreation study under VIA’s site and ballfield planning and design contract with Norfolk Recreation, Parks and Open Space Department. During the course of our extensive public engagement process, it became clear that the civic leaders put a far higher priority on indoor facilities than they did upgraded and expanded outdoor recreation facilities. As a result, VIA was also authorized to perform a preliminary feasibility study for a new multigenerational community and recreational center.

STEM Focus Group Needs Assessment

Senior Workshop Focused On Site Development

Senior Workshop Focused On Site Development

Senior Workshop Focused On Site Development

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This study is notable for the breadth of its public engagement efforts and impact. Beginning with in-classroom visioning exercises with students in each of the public schools that serve the children of Berkley, word of the project quickly spread through the Southside and brought people of all ages to the series of public workshops. A youth charrette followed the school workshops and brought an enthusiastic and thoughtful group to the table. Subsequent open houses were held in Berkley and Campostella, and wrapped up with a highly interactive workshop at the Senior Center. Over 70 participants shared their preferences for outdoor recreation facilities, which informed our preliminary site alternatives. During this series of workshops, attendees impressed upon City representatives their strong desire for a new recreation center to anchor Berkeley and the site. It was at this point that the discussion turned to the possibilities of building and site.

Andrew And Keith Leading Community Leaders On A Tour Of The Essex

Andrew And Keith Leading Community Leaders On A Tour Of The Essex

Roundtable Discussion With Community Leaders Regarding The Two Options That Would Be Voted On By The Public

Site Plan For Option A: Community Cornerstone That Was Presented To The Public

Space Diagram Proposal For Option A: Community Cornerstone

Site Plan For Option B: New Construction That Was Presented To The Public

Space Diagram Proposal For Option B: New Construction

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Building upon our understanding of the outdoor recreational needs and priorities from the first part of the study, VIA’s landscape architects then developed ten alternative site and building layouts. These incorporated a range of outdoor aquatic and athletic facilities, playgrounds and other park features, in addition to a new multigenerational community center. We recognized the potential to revitalize a one-hundred-year-old (estimated) building on site that had served many purposes over the years, but was becoming functionally obsolete. Our architects took a closer look and developed schemes that breathed new life into the historic structure. They also envisioned the potential of an all new structure of an equal size, and formulated schemes that embodied a fresh start.

Some of the ten alternatives included the renovated and expanded community landmark, while others showed the building being demolished and replaced with a new building in a different part of the site. With input from City representatives, we narrowed the options down to two we presented at the final community meeting. Those that attended the meeting unanimously supported the “Community Cornerstone” alternative that showed how the historic building could be renovated and expanded to serve as a state-of-the-art, multigenerational, community, recreation and aquatic center.