Sanibel Community House

One of the oldest buildings on Island outside the grounds of the Sanibel Historic Museum and Village is the Sanibel Community House. The original Community House structure of about 1500 sq. ft. was built in 1927…now called the North Room and was added onto twice after… in the 1950s the middle room, and in the 1979…the auditorium. If walls could talk, the Community House walls would reveal stories of Island politics, social gatherings, and about the founding of many civic organizations and cultural activities on the Island.

Okay, so why are we talking about the Sanibel Community House? Well, for a couple of reasons. One is that the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary is now holding our regular Friday morning meetings at the Community House where we can’t help but notice architectural drawings for the proposed Community House reconstruction project prominently displayed in the lobby.

Reason two because we invited the Community House Executive Director, Teresa Riska-Hall to bring us up-to-date on the proposed renovation project on the Community House. Indications are that the city planning department and the Sanibel Planning Council are vigilantly reviewing the proposed construction plans and hopefully it is just a matter of time before actually construction begins during summer 2016.

Teresa, told us she has a passion and it’s connected to Sanibel’s History and the Community House being part of that History…as she says, “History Matters”. There has been much speculation about whether the Community Association would actually move the Community House across Periwinkle to become part of the proposed future Common Core project. After much thoughtful consideration and pressing needs for improvements to the Community House, the Sanibel Community Association Board and Community Association Membership determined that they will not move the Sanibel Community House but would keep this historic part of Sanibel’s history right where the community placed it in 1927 and where the memories of our Island have been held over the years.

With that decision made, it was time to discuss the actually condition and functionality of the present building. The historic part of the building works extremely well and is in relatively good standing but not so with the 1950 and 1970 expansion add-ons . Problems that need to be address …building flow, electrical and sound systems, fire and air systems, restroom functionality, kitchen layout, and storage. After much discussions in-house, with community members, construction professionals, and the city on how to best address these problems an architect was called in to draw up some plans. Actually a couple of architects were called in; there was tweaking, more tweaking, re-tweaking, city input, change of architect and finally a plan. Stop by the lobby of the Community House; check the beautiful architectural drawings by Architect, Amy Nowacki, AIA. You will be duly impressed…restoration of the original historic structure… opening back up the front window area to extended the width of that entrance side and replacing the now very worn floor with similarly appropriate and aged wood.

San Comm House

The most extensive area to be renovated will be the center part of the building…major changes will happen here…a portico style structure and entrance will bring you into a new welcoming entry-way lobby… to relocate the lobby the current hall and storage areas now leading to the North Room will be opened up and combined …complete rebuilding of the middle room including new electrical and sound system and a complete remodeling of the kitchen expanding the footprint into the storage and hall space nearby stealing floor space where ever possible…the auditorium space will pretty much stay the same with new electrical and sound system but both outside walls of the auditorium will be reconfigured. The current lobby space will be rebuilt to house restrooms, a corridor, storage space and an abutted expansion on this side of the building will include a small board room and outside vestibule…on the opposite outside wall of the auditorium the plans calls to add on storage space for the Shellcrafters.

Even before the Common Core idea was put forth, the Community House was beginning to put aside funding for some of these updates but it became more and more apparent that it was time to go ahead and bite the bullet…major renovation was needed. There have been a few go and stops on this project but the plans are on the drawing board, city approval is in the works, and now how to you pay for it. That will be the challenge. The cost is estimated to come in somewhere around $1.975 Million. The Community Association is asking the community to rally around this project …the community has always been the central focus of this historic place. The land the Community House sits on was donated by an Islander, the original Community House was built with funds raised by the community, subsequent additions were funded by the community, and now it’s time to do it again. $1,975 Million should not be that hard to raise to guarantee that this historic place will continue to be here for many generations to come. The Sanibel Community House is not funded by the city, but as before, the generous members of our community will be needed to help raise money for this project…stop by talk to Teresa, look at the plans, ask questions …oh, and bring your checkbook.

SPEAKER NOTES FROM 8-1-15 James Johnstone