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Alan Stewart (left) and Terry Peregrine chip old mortar from bricks that were reclaimed from the Western Rubber Co. site in Goshen on May 6, 2010. The site along Ninth Street and the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks is among the contenders for the proposed Goshen Community Center. (JENNIFER SHEPHARD)

The exterior of the former Goshen Inn on U.S. 33 on the south side of Goshen as seen Wednesday, March 27, 2013. The site is being considered as a possible location for the new Goshen Community Center. (Truth Photo By Jennifer Shephard) (AP)
Holiday Inn, Western Rubber top list of Community Center site contenders

Posted on March 27, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on March 27, 2013 at 5:29 p.m.

GOSHEN — The second public forum on the site of the proposed Goshen Community Center didn’t quite accomplish its goal of eliminating two potential locations from consideration, but participants were able to narrow the options to five Tuesday night, March 26.

The evening began with six possible sites to be considered after a subcommittee slimmed the choices down from 10 after the first public forum in February.

The subcommittee was comprised of a handful of individuals that had attended that first meeting, at which participants helped form the criteria for selecting the center’s location.

The forums were scheduled to search for alternatives to the originally proposed former Goshen Street Department site along the Millrace in an effort to reduce the cost of the project. The development of that site would cost $2 million and would require construction of a traffic access bridge that would tack on an additional $300,000.

The six options on the table Tuesday night included the Millrace site, a site near Greencroft Goshen, a site off Plymouth Avenue across from Goshen Middle School, the old Western Rubber site parallel to Ninth Street and the Marion line, the Holiday Inn site west of U.S. 33 and the former Quality Drive Away site just off the S.R. 15 overpass.

The consensus of those gathered Tuesday was to eliminate the old Quality Drive Away site from consideration.

The goal of the meeting was originally to eliminate two locations, but questions about the remaining sites forced the group to keep five options open.

After splitting into groups, residents listed their top choices and then reported back to the larger assembly.

The clear frontrunners were the Holiday Inn and Western Rubber sites.

The Holiday Inn location was preferred because of its proximity to Goshen High School. Being located off U.S. 33 was also a positive characteristic, as those gathered noted its easy access for vehicles. Some also mentioned that building the community center there would be chance to improve the area that has been unoccupied.

Western Rubber was also a popular site for its location near the high school.

Both the Greencroft and Millrace sites would provide the advantage of not costing any money to purchase. The city’s redevelopment commission agreed to donate the Millrace area to the community center group if November’s referendum passed and project director Bruce Stahly said Greencroft was willing to donate some land for the site.

The group was noncommittal, however, when asked which of the other sites it would like to eliminate. Despite being the overall favorites, the Holiday Inn and Western Rubber sites brought with them significant questions that prevented the group from choosing to eliminate any of the other options at this point.

After the meeting, Stahly said a final choice would not likely be made by April, as originally hoped. “The variables now are cost,” he said, noting that the costs to purchase the Holiday Inn and demolish the building were still unclear.

An issue with the Western Rubber site is that the center would have to be separated from parking by Plymouth Avenue due to area constraints.

Another significant concern for the Western Rubber location is its proximity to the Norfolk Southern Marion line. Goshen Schools Superintendent Diane Woodward said though the prospects of a waiver from the state were promising, there were no guarantees that a waiver could be obtained.

Stahly said the next steps for the community center, beyond selecting a site, will be to sit down with businesses and financial professionals for a closer look at the group’s business plan and check the numbers provided to them.

For more information on the Goshen Community Center, including the business plan visit www.goshencommunitycenter.com.