AUBURN — The City Council will be asked to allocate $3 million from the American Rescue Plan Act toward a new PAL Center, potentially providing a massive boost to the effort to build a new community center on Chestnut Street.

The nonprofit PAL Center, in an aging building on Chestnut Street, has grown into an important community need but far exceeds capacity to provide after-school programming for some 100 children daily, officials have said.

Officials said the $3 million would leverage additional public and private donors as well as grants to reach the estimated price tag of $8.6 million.

City leaders unveiled preliminary designs and estimated construction costs late last year after lengthy talks between city staff and the center’s board to identify space needs. The city partnered with engineering firms Woodard & Curran and Simons Architects, both of Portland, for the design work.

According to a city memo, the building has far exceeded its capacity of 43 people to “safely offer programming due to lack of space.” The center had to close its doors during the pandemic because of the limited space.

During the December 2021 meeting, staff from Woodard & Curran presented details of the proposed 17,000-square-foot building featuring a gym, kitchen, day care, multipurpose spaces for computers, art and a teen room.


New outdoor amenities would include an athletic field and site improvements such as additional parking, lawn space, playground and community gardens.

Mayor Jason Levesque said Friday that the renovated and expanded center would “transform that neighborhood.”

“That’s going to be a huge thing and we’re ready to go,” he said.

According to the memo, the organization’s goal is to build the new center within the next two years.

“This project would begin a revitalization in an area of Auburn that has the highest child poverty rate, the highest violent crime, and the highest child victimization,” the memo said.

Levesque said items like the PAL Center project are why Auburn has been slow to allocate its $13.5 million in federal relief funds.

“This is why we saved our ARPA funds,” he said, adding that additional donors and grants can “take us all the way to (what) we need.”

Also on Monday, the council will be asked to allocate another $1.6 million from the federal allocation toward a new firetruck. City staff said purchasing now would save some money and using the relief funds would eliminate the need to bond for the money.

The council will also receive presentations Monday from City Manager Phil Crowell on the fiscal 2023 municipal budget and Capital Improvement Plan. The initial plan calls for $13.79 million in spending next year on infrastructure and major purchases, but the removal of the firetruck from that plan would lower the cost by $1.65 million.

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