Porterdale hears final plans for gym

PORTERDALE - City Council members were able to view plans for reconstruction of the burned out Porter Memorial Gym at a work session on June 25.

Representatives from Richard Wittschiebe Hand, the Atlanta architectural firm hired to develop a conceptual plan for reconstruction of the gym, made a presentation that addressed future uses of the gym as well as its structural stability. The firm was selected last August to carry out the project in three phases. Phase I, which is now completed, was expected to cost $24,250, and included working with the community to determine how the building will be used and creating a written program of uses and producing a written assessment of the current condition of the building.

Project manager Tanya Richard outlined the conceptual plan for council members and interested residents at the meeting, saying that plans focused on residents' expressed wishes for the interior of the gym as well as the desire for the gym to retain its original appearance on the exterior.

Inside, plans call for the gym to have a basketball court and seating as a central feature, with a walking track on the second floor overlooking the court. Other features include a dedicated meeting room for the Porterdale Women's Club, a library and computer room, a banquet room on the first floor with an adjacent catering kitchen, an exercise/weight room, classrooms, an arts and crafts room, a game room, a community meeting room and more. The gym layout encompasses more than 24,000 square feet.

Richard told the council that tests show the remaining brick walls of the gym are in good shape and can be reused in the restoration.

The presentation to the council completed the first phase of the project to restore the gym. Richard said the next step in the process will be to establish costs for the reconstruction work. She estimated that the project would cost $110 to $120 per square foot, or a minimum of $2.7 million. The first priority in actual construction will be to replace the roof and stabilize the exterior brick walls, which would cost approximately $1.5 million, she said.

The historic Porter Gym was gutted by fire in October 2005. The fire left the gym's exterior walls standing, but nothing remains of the interior. The fire was deliberately set, although no one has been arrested in the arson.

Alice Queen can be reached at alice.queen@rockdalecitizen.com.