In mid-2020, the Parks and Recreation Department moved into the new Merriam Community Center on Slater St. What happens to the existing property at 5701 Merriam Drive and the former Irene B. French Community Center (IBFCC) is of great interest to our residents.
The current location of 5701 Merriam Drive is an important asset to our community, not just because of its history, but because of its key location in downtown Merriam. The City of Merriam facilitated several public meetings to determine how to honor the location's past while aiming to make it an asset for future generations.
On Nov. 26, 2018, City Council appointed nine resident volunteers to serve as members of a steering committee to guide the work. These residents have a wide array of professional backgrounds and are spread across the city geographically as well as generationally. The 5701 Merriam Drive Steering Committee members helped identify potential uses of the current site of the IBFCC and made a recommendation to City Council to include a preferred funding method for any improvements.
The Committee spearheaded several public meetings and other opportunities for community members to have their voices heard. After a year of exploring options for the site, the Committee’s final recommendation was for the City to keep as much of the existing 1911 building as structurally possible and then tear down the rest of the Irene B. French Community Center to make room for an amphitheater/stage, playgrounds, and green space. On Aug. 12, 2019, the 5701 Merriam Drive Steering Committee shared its final report to the Merriam City Council.
View final report(PDF, 8MB).
While the City Council voted to accept the final report and recognized the hard work of the Committee on this project, further study was needed to be done before the City Council could decide how to move forward. The City hired a structural engineer to do a more in-depth evaluation of the 1911 portion of the building. View the City Council work session discussing the future of the Irene B. French Community Center.
In July 2020, Merriam City Councilmembers voted to demolish the Irene B. French Community Center. The project was completed in August 2020.
The contractor – a Merriam business – preserved some of the building materials for future city projects, including 40 cubic yards of stone from the 1911 portion of the building and one stone mosaic.
Once the building was removed, grass was planted, and the site will remain green space for the near future. The City will continue conversations with residents about the future of the 5701 Merriam Drive site once this project is completed.
At the February 27, 2023 City Council meeting, Mayor Bob Pape appointed the 2023 5701 Steering Committee memebers. The first meeting for this committee is slated for April 2023.