Nearly four years ago, Randallstown residents told a team of urban designers that the area needed a community center.
Now, one is being built -- and it will be the largest building of its type in Baltimore County.
Ground was broken this week behind the Liberty Resource Center on what will be a 58,000- square-foot facility.
The $13 million Randallstown Community Center is to include a six-lane indoor pool with bleachers, locker rooms and showers, a gymnasium with basketball courts and an indoor track, a large computer room and a performing arts hall.
The building is designed to be environmentally friendly.
Its roof will reflect much of the sun's rays, thereby reducing the need for air conditioning. Windows are designed to let in a lot of daylight, which will save electricity. The center is on a bus line and will have bike racks.
The facility is scheduled to open in the spring of 2009.
Elaine Alexander of Randallstown, who celebrated the start of construction at a ceremony Monday, said the facility will bring together neighbors of all age groups.
"I think it's fantastic," she said.
Planners hope that seniors will use the indoor track for recreational walking. Residents hope it will attract youngsters.
On completion, the building will be by far the county's largest community center. The county started with a plan to build a standard 13,000-square- foot community center.
Residents were dissatisfied with this prospect and asked for a larger center so that it could house a variety of activities.
"We started out with 13,000 square feet, and we ended up with 58,000 feet, and this is what you deserve," County Councilman Kenneth N. Oliver told the audience at Monday's ceremony.
The project is being paid for with $10 million in county money, $2.9 million in state grants and $400,000 in federal funding for the technology center.
The center is one component of a revitalization plan for Randallstown.
In 2003, an Urban Design Assistance Team, with professionals in architecture, planning and related disciplines, evaluated the Randallstown area and suggested projects that would fulfill community needs.
As part of the revitalization effort, the community is trying to attract major retailers to the area. A Home Depot recently opened. Another community development project is Gateway Park, at Liberty and McDonogh roads, which is expected to be completed in October.
Some residents have been unhappy with delays that have troubled local revitalization plans. Plans for a Wal-Mart and a Ruby Tuesday restaurant have been tied up for years, and construction has not begun on either. But county officials have said that compared with five years ago, far fewer vacant stores line Liberty Road.
"Unfortunately, it takes time to plan," said Randallstown resident Bill Bralove. "And, in this community, it doesn't seem like anything is given to them. They have to fight their way through every step."
Derrick Burnett, a Randallstown resident and an architect who worked with the Urban Design Assistance Team, said the community center will be worth the wait.
"It was a long time coming," he said. "During the process, people were given explanations regarding the project delays and became more patient because they knew that to get exactly what they wanted, it would take time."