Jersey Village tries to balance costs, space needs at planned convention center

Jersey Village officials are seeking to replace the clubhouse at the Jersey Meadow Golf Course. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
Jersey Village officials are seeking to replace the clubhouse at the Jersey Meadow Golf Course. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)

Jersey Village officials are seeking to replace the clubhouse at the Jersey Meadow Golf Course. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)

As debate continues over the design of a proposed convention center at the Jersey Meadow Golf Course in Jersey Village, officials opted to take a step back and bring in a new opinion.

At a Nov. 18 work session, members of Jersey Village City Council and staff decided they would continue to work with PGAL, the firm brought on board initially to design the facility, while also asking officials with Collaborate Architects to weigh in on more budget-friendly ways to design the project.

The city contracted PGAL to design the project in May 2018 at the cost of $189,800. In January, PGAL provided the city with two design options, of which city officials picked a 11,500-square-foot, two-story plan that would feature a restaurant, bar, conference room and event space and would cost an estimated $3.6 million to construct.

However, after bidding the project out, PGAL Principal Paul Bonnette informed the Jersey Village City Council in May that the lowest bid came in at $5.1 million, prompting the council to sideline the project and seek ways to bring it back within budget.

Bonnette presented city officials with several redesigned versions of the center at the Nov. 18 session and said they were specifically designed to bring the project back within budget. However, he noted that there are other pathways to achieving that goal, referring to redesigns as the “first stab.”

The redesigned largely focused on changing the building from two stories to one story and reducing the square footage from 11,500 square feet to around 9,000 square feet.

Plans for the redesign also involved removing the boardroom from the floor plan, but the convention center was given a similar amount of space, seeing a reduction in seats from 176 to 160, Bonnette said. The cost of construction for the redesigned center was estimated at $2.7 million, he said.

Parks and Recreation Director Jason Alfaro also presented the council with a plan to move forward with the two-story facility as it was originally designed but with several changes made using what he called “value engineering.” The updated cost estimate came in at $4 million, which included contingency costs but did not include furniture and fixtures, Alfaro said.

Several council members expressed concern about the consequences of taking the building down to one story. Council member Gary Wubbenhorst questioned how the move could affect the city’s ability to market the center for larger, higher-end events.

“For weddings and just about any event, mixing with customers of the golf course is not a desirable thing,” he said. “I have a hard time giving up on the two-story idea. I need to know what the value is there.”

Council member Greg Holden said he thought a facility that combined both golf course functions and event space needed to be two stories. He suggested holding off on moving forward with the project until work begins on a new City Hall facility south of Hwy. 290 around February of next year, noting that the cost per square foot on the City Hall project was lower than the estimates on the convention center.

“I’m very interested in trying to look for some economies of scale in conjunction with City Hall,” he said. “I think we should wait to proceed and try to join the projects together to try to get the cost down. I think we’re backing ourselves into a corner we don’t want to be in.”

Mayor Andrew Mitcham suggested having the PGAL team meet with architects from Collaborate to try to come up with a path forward for the convention center. He added that he thinks a single-story facility could work, but said his opinion ultimately hinged on whether a single-story building would mean a lower overall cost per square foot.

“I think single-story does work, looking at layout,” Mitcham said. “We can still separate the two functions quite easily, with the convention center on one side, golf functions on the other side and the restaurant down the middle with some hallways. I think price per square foot is our real metric here.”

Wubbenhorst said he did not want to delay the project by too much, saying he did not want to fall behind the construction pace of work planned at Village Center, a new mixed-use center south of Hwy. 290. City Manager Austin Bleess said it was not a concern as construction would be underway on Village Center for several years.

At the conclusion of the work session, Bleess said a meeting between PGAL and Collaborate would be arranged and city staff should be able to provide the council with a better idea of the costs of one-story and two-story designs within the next few months.
By Shawn Arrajj
Shawn Arrajj serves as the editor of the Cy-Fair edition of Community Impact Newspaper where he covers the Cy-Fair and Jersey Village communities. He mainly writes about development, transportation and issues in Harris County.