You wouldn’t think there would be so much clamor over a former water tower pump house. But when municipal office space is tight?”as it is in Riverside?”you fight for what you can get. After all, Riverside doesn’t even have a proper village hall; it rents space from Riverside Township.
Currently the village’s Recreation Department and Historical Museum are in a tug of war over the old downtown pump house, which was made obsolete when the old water system was taken off line last year.
The question village officials need to wrestle with is, what is the best use for the structure? In the short term, trustees appear to want the two groups to share the space. To us, that seems an unlikely and unworkable scenario.
For one, the needs of the two groups are totally at odds with one another. The Rec Department needs, and deserves, enough space to run its programs. With aerobics classes for adults and programs for kids, there will be lots of activity and noise in that building.
Meanwhile, the museum staff is looking for an environmentally controlled building with space for archival storage, exhibits and quiet research. Shoehorning both activities into one small space will satisfy no one.
Parking near the water tower is fairly scarce, and the streets surrounding the pump house are pretty busy, especially during rush hours. So there’s also a related safety issue, especially if the Rec Department is going to start running more programming for children onsite.
The best place for a community center, as some noted last week, is the former Youth Center, located just east of the main fire station. It has a parking lot that can be used after village offices close and is located far enough from busy downtown streets.
Furthermore, the central, visible location of the pump house would make it an ideal site for a historical museum. In addition, parking is also less of a concern for the museum.
The trouble is how to make this all happen. The old Youth Center would have to be razed and a new center built in its place. That will potentially cost millions. Creating a museum that can serve Riverside well into this century will also be a costly venture.
Whether the village wants to be in the museum business at all is a fundamental question the board has to answer. If the answer is yes, they should find a way to help fund it. But setting up a foundation to fund the museum is also an idea that needs further exploration by the Historical Commission.
As for building a new community center, perhaps the best thing would be to come up with a proposal and let voters decide.
Failing that, it will likely be a lot easier to replicate the Rec Department’s current offices elsewhere than create any type of workable museum in another spot. But the two shouldn’t be forced to share the same space; that won’t work for anyone.