Campus approach is a good choice

Nearly a decade after taking possession of the former Custer Elementary School on Crook Street and branding it the future site of the Custer Community Center, the city is finally solidly moving in that direction. The only caveat, of course, is that the community center won’t be in the former elementary building. While the future community center will be on the site of the former school, the school itself is set to be torn down, with it having been decided it was simply too expensive to renovate the old school into the facilities needed for the community center.
In its place will be a community center that is a campus-style approach. What does that mean? Instead of one large building there will likely be multiple buildings, similar to what you would see on a college campus. There will eventually be a building for city hall, a building for the Custer YMCA, and so on. Doing the construction with this approach allows one building to be constructed at a time, which in turn, should allow the city to attack the center in incremental costs. This is much more feasible and palatable than trying to renovate and retrofit an older building for millions of dollars.
That isn’t to say renovating the old building wasn’t a good idea at the time. Every mayor and every person who was involved in the designing, planning and work done on the old building had great intentions. A lot of money has been poured into the building since 2012, with a new boiler system, sprinkler system and a ton of demolition work done by a lot of volunteers inside the building. Large metal braces were also put in place to help hold the upper floors solidly in place. In the end, however, the money and work was for naught, as bringing the building down the homestretch was going to cost more money than the city could afford. Live and learn.
Something had to be done. The citizens of Custer have made it quite clear they want to see a community center on that site, and to that end the council last year passed a resolution affirming its intention to put a community center in some form or fashion on the site. As it turns out it will be new multiple buildings instead of one large building.
The old school’s fate was likely sealed when a group of juveniles broke into the building and started a fire, heavily damaging part of the building, including the multipurpose room that was one part of the building that was actually still in use. That made the building unsafe, and further cemented it was just going to be too expensive to fix. That stinks for the pickeball players who were displaced, but perhaps in the future the new community center (or Harbach Park) could provide them a place to serve it up.
Kudos to the Custer City Council for continuing to move forward with the community center. We all look forward to a near future with a new center. We hope it doesn’t take another decade to get there.

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