The City Council held a public meeting Thursday to hear residents' concerns regarding plans to modernize the .
At times emotionally charged, the special meeting called by Mayor Barry Brucker lasted more than four hours, with attendees sharing a diverse range of views on how the community center should be restored.
In December the council that came in over the $14.7 million budgeted for the project. Brucker stressed that Thursday's meeting, the latest in a dating back to 2006, would start with a "clean slate."
"The goal tonight is not to be hearing from your council colleagues," he said. "The goal is that your council colleagues—all council colleagues—want to hear from you."
While no definitive plans for the new facility were finalized, the residents who filled Council Chambers to capacity responded frankly, at times calling out council members for past decisions.
"It seems almost impossible not to discuss some of the many mistakes and lessons we've learned over the more than five years of endless meetings, revisions, architects, plans, interest groups and money, lots of money for designs and plans the community didn't want," Southwest Homeowners Association President Ken Goldman said. "What are the lessons to be learned? First and foremost, listen to the community."
While some residents argued to keep costs low with renovations to the existing structure, others championed a complete overhaul of the facility.
"I come to represent the seniors," said Winnie Hervey, president of the . "I want to impress upon the council that we need a new building. I hate to say this, but we're operating in a dump, and our seniors deserve a lot more than that."
Goldman, however, said that the community has advocated for "a remodel of the existing building to bring it up to code seismically, redo the bathrooms entirely, refurbish the interiors and expand the kitchen." He added that the city doesn't need another basketball court or a big expansion of the community center.
Resident Linda Roberts was another attendee who supported rebuilding the structure.
"By the time you patch and repair an old building ... for the same money you can build another facility," Roberts said. "It's time to come to some sort of compromise. The conditions at Roxbury are deplorable."
After listening to a variety of perspectives, Councilwoman Lili Bosse initiated the council's first response.
"I have heard you loud and clear," she said to residents at the meeting. "I think we all agree that Roxbury needs upgrading. I think the issue, as someone said earlier, is to what degree?"