MATTHEWS – An early analysis of needed repairs for the Matthews Community Center roof estimates $250,000 or more of work needs to be done in a project that could force the town to temporarily move some or all of the center’s programming to different locations.
The report, which was put together by Frank Williams of 2 Architecture, Inc., a Matthews architect that has worked on previous projects with the town, showed the community center is in dire need of repairs and renovations to fix the settling roof, shifted rafters, water leaks, some deteriorating materials and more. The report is just preliminary, and town officials haven’t yet decided if they will proceed with Williams’s firm, or put the project out to bid. That decision likely will be made at the next Matthews Board of Commissioners meeting on May 12, a Monday.
“It wasn’t inferred in the report, but the building is safe – there is no safety issue, but it’s just the roof needs replacing,” Annette Privette Keller, town spokesperson, said. “The facility itself is safe, and there is no issue there.”
The preliminary report found concerns with the center – which was built in various phases over the years with different styles and materials – in a portion of the building that faces South Trade Street and hosts an old entrance staircase and four-column portico. That portion of the facility dates back to 1926, and is a main portion of the building’s historic designation.
With additions, renovations, patches, air conditioning, electrical work, a sprinkler system and more over the years, the roof just isn’t as sturdy as it used to be and some sagging has now become visible, according to the report.
“We’ve had some concern about the 1926 portion of the community center for a little while,” Ralph Messera, Matthews Public Works director, said at the board’s April 28 meeting. “About a year ago, some of the situation has (become) worse. There are some settled spots.”
The community center originally opened in 1907 as the town’s first public school, according to the Matthews’ website, and over the years has received several expansions. The facility faced demolition in the 1990s until the town decided to purchase the property and pursue restoration. Now, the center houses the Fullwood Theater, home to the Matthews Playhouse, and Parks and Recreation offices and other programs and classes like dance and ballet, Privette Keller said.
The facility also had renovations in 2001, but because of limited funding and tourism dollars, town officials opted to repair the roof as opposed to replacing the entire portion in place since 1926.
“When we did alterations in 2001… I don’t think the settling you see now was visible at the time,” Messera said. “Some of the things that were being done at the time… were done on the cheap.”
But now, time is crucial, Williams and Messera said. Williams was surprised the roof withstood last season’s winter weather, he added, and hopes the town acts quickly to get the facility repaired.
Some town leaders have concerns of the facility being shut down once construction and renovations start. Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor described the center as “sort of a gem in this community,” he said, and residents value the center’s programming and historical background. Privette Keller said there would be options to potentially temporarily move programming to other town facilities if need be, but town leaders haven’t discussed that yet.
“The building is going to be down for a while – I don’t know how long, but probably a while,” Williams said, also throwing out at six-month time period for the work.
At the May 12 meeting, the board will have reviewed Williams proposal for architectural and engineering services for construction, which comes in at $40,000 to $50,000, where they will decide to either accept Williams’ proposal or put the project out to bid. Leaders say the entire project could be paid for with current tourism funds.
Want to see the preliminary report? Visit the town’s website at www.matthewsnc.gov. The link to the report can be found on the April 28 board of commissioners meeting agenda.