If nothing else, that quick survey got a good response — 198 cooperators logged their opinion in the past 48 hours. Thank you!
First things first: This was obviously a crude gauge, without any budget for suggested items or professional input (though there were resident architects at our meeting on Monday). But as a way of taking the temperature of cooperators it’s a hell of a lot better than not asking the questions at all. And the clearest response was for more deliberation — 87% of respondents agreed that the $73,000 community room renovation should be delayed so that a more complete survey of cooperators can be completed.
As for individual suggestions, there were some clear winners and losers. Let’s look at basic structural suggestions first.
The board’s current plan calls for upgrades to the community room’s kitchen and bathrooms, as well as window treatments, flooring, and lighting — all of these upgrades received high marks from respondents:
Three other suggestions received approval, though less enthusiastically, and would need to be evaluated in much fuller detail to get a good sense of their costs and benefits. In particular, adding a new entrance to the room from the main hallway, so that you don’t need to walk past the garbage in the back hallway to use the room, would need much more evaluation. While some participants on Monday thought that this was the single most important structural change needed to make the room more useful, the high cost associated with such an addition made survey respondents think twice.
Note also that the women’s club was singled out only because of its proximity to the community room; at Monday’s meeting, the men’s club was also brought into the discussion, and participants were looking for a way to make better use overall of these three large rooms.
From this survey, the board should have some direction when re-evaluating the policies around use of the community room. An overwhelming majority support more flexible and affordable rental rates, allowing for hourly rentals rather than just one rate of $325 for the whole day. Cooperators also approve of keeping the room open for use when not reserved for a specific use — a policy that every single candidate for the board of directors this past fall also supported. Even though the community room is not a big money-maker, much less support could be found for the idea of making room reservations completely free for shareholders.
(Note that the free use of the room by coop groups holding open meetings to discuss coop issues was not a part of this survey, nor should it be — on this point, the board just needs to follow the law.)
Finally, various additional amenities were suggested. Comfortable seating got very high marks. Audio/visual equipment, WiFi, and books were supported but not as broadly. And adding a pool table was the one obvious loser of all these suggestions.
The question of amenities really leads into the last question, which, in a properly sequenced discussion of renovation should really be the first question: What do you think the community room should be used for? Should it remain as it is now, with minimal decorations in order to maintain utility for the widest variety of uses (option A)? Or should it be a more comfortable space with amenities for cooperators to meet, relax, and participate in group activities (option B)? On this question, respondents favored a more comfortable space, but not by much — 52% to 44% (4% had no opinion).
One last point about this last question: At our meeting on Monday it seemed likely that even more people would favor a utilitarian rental space if the women’s and men’s clubs were better taken advantage of for comfort and group activities. So there remains a broader conversation to have about the use of all the coop’s ground floor spaces. Cooperatively Yours looks forward to working with the house committee and board of directors to move that conversation forward.