Submitted by Calvert Johnson
Reserving meeting space is increasingly difficult at Big Canoe, whether at The Clubhouse, Swim Club, Canoe Lodge, The Chapel, or elsewhere.
With over 50 active clubs in Big Canoe, several dozen official committees, as well as a number of popular annual activities, and a growing full-time resident population, it is nearly impossible to find a consistent meeting day and time for the same space. In addition, meeting rooms at the clubhouse are not really intended for speakers at large gatherings, art or photography exhibitions, and acoustically the rooms do not lend themselves to music or theatre productions.
Two groups from Leadership Big Canoe (2015 and 2016) studied existing meeting spaces and potential spaces (for example, the village core buildings) to see how they might be used more effectively for more purposes, including activities for children and youth. One question examined was whether a building in the Village might be adapted to serve as a community center.
In addition to health-related programs, the Wellness Collaborative is concerned with quality of life, and life-long learning. The Knowledge Series Advisory Council and the Healthy Living Group from Leadership Big Canoe (2016) also identified similar goals and objectives. A convergence of interests resulted in the appointment of a Community Center Committee by the Wellness Collaborative. The spring 2016 purchase of Big Canoe Company’s holdings in the developed Big Canoe community brought some urgency to the task since the POA board appointed a Land Use Task Force to determine and recommend plans for all of the newly acquired properties.
The charter for the Big Canoe Wellness Collaborative Community Center Committee states that it is “to investigate the potential of establishment of a facility where area residents can utilize meeting room space(s), access internet and utilize AV equipment, experience cultural opportunities, attend wellness classes and health care related activities. Activities for residents of all ages are the focus.”
This committee is focused both on the near term establishment of a community center (likely to utilize existing space as available) and to explore a concept for a new community center to be proposed by the Wellness Collaborative for consideration by the POA board in the future. “Initial work shall focus on getting the community center concept established outlining what it will encompass and what service expectations will be met.”
Rhonda Stock, Wellness Collaborative president, convened a group of Big Canoe residents with diverse experience, knowledge, and skills, and asked Calvert Johnson from the Knowledge Series to chair the committee. The group has met weekly since late April 2016, with a deadline of July 1, 2016, for an initial report focused on the short term.
In less than eight weeks, the committee has accomplished a great deal in the information gathering stage:
- Reviewed the work of the three Leadership Big Canoe groups, and a maintenance facility study
- Created an inventory of existing and potential meeting spaces, showing dimensions, seating capacity, presence of tables and chairs as well as audio-visual equipment, and restrictions on food and beverages, including alcohol
- Created a list of existing and brandnew clubs, committees and organizations
- Mailed a Survey Monkey questionnaire to the main contact person of these groups
- Visited similar communities to examine facilities and programming
Facilities that the committee members visited include Rock Creek Park and Margie Weaver Senior Center in Dawson County, Soleil, Serenbe, and Peachtree Sun City, Griffin. Plans are to visit a performing arts center and a library with extensive outreach activities.
Next Step: study of the data collected from the inventory of existing and potential meeting spaces, the questionnaire about meeting space needs, and the site visits. Subsequently, focus groups of 8-10 persons each will discuss possibilities for utilization of existing spaces and for meeting spaces and activities that might be included in a new facility.
The committee will take into consideration not only the existing population of Big Canoe, but also a projection of what it might look like demographically in the future. If a new community center were to be approved by the POA, the center would need to serve a multi-generational community. For now, the committee’s work has moved from the information gathering stage and is now in the needs assessment stage.