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Queens Chronicle

$9M building set for nature center

Plans announced for construction of new headquarters for APEC

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Posted: Thursday, September 19, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:45 am, Thu Sep 26, 2013.

After years of delays and cramped quarters, Alley Pond Environmental Center in Douglaston will be getting a new headquarters, with work expected to begin next year.

Irene Scheid, executive director of APEC, told the Chronicle exclusively, that years of planning and soliciting funds have finally paid off. “We are very excited,” Scheid said. “This will meet our needs for the future and will provide a better laid-out facility.”

Plans call for a $9 million building that will be constructed behind the existing facility at 228-06 Northern Blvd. It now houses one of APEC’s parking lots. Once the new facility is completed, the old building, which started out as an outdoor furniture store, will be razed to create additional parking space.

Parks Department spokesman Zach Feder said the exterior of the new structure will be clad in brick, glass and steel. The landscape work includes grading, paving and planting, as well as constructing the new parking lot along Northern Boulevard.

The parking lot will be designed to capture and retain storm water on site.

“We expect to have design drawings finalized in the spring of 2014, and begin construction later that year,” Feder said, with work expected to take two years.

Scheid indicated that parking will be an issue during construction, but classes will go on.

The 10,000-square-foot building will be LEED silver certified and will include many environmental features, including a rain garden that captures rainwater, similiar to one at the Queens Botanical Garden in Flushing.

“It will be as green as it can be with the funding,” the executive director said.

The facility will include a large lobby area where events and fundraisers can be held, four early childhood classrooms and three large additional classrooms. “Some of the space can be opened up for larger programs,” Scheid added.

She is also happy to report that a new kitchen especially for humans will be included “so that we don’t have to share space with the animals,” Scheid noted.

The new facility will be one-story tall because it will be located on wetlands and additional weight from another level would be problematic. An overhanging roof will provide covered outdoor space for classes and events.

In 2009, APEC announced it had obtained $7 million in city and state funds, which were to be used to install six modular units that would connect to the existing building via a walkway. Those units were for staff, opening up additional space in the building for events and programs.

But because of the area’s marshlands, planning took longer than expected with special approvals needed from the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Meanwhile, APEC was able to acquire additional funding from the city and planning began two years ago for the new structure, scrapping the modular units.

“With the new building we will be able to encourage more school programs and have more weekend events,” Scheid said.

APEC was founded in 1972 by a group of teachers, who were concerned about the lack of environmental education in the public schools. It is located in Alley Pond Park and encompasses 150 acres of woodland, meadows and fresh and saltwater marshes with natural trails. APEC offers extensive classes for children and environmenteal programs for the entire family.

Scheid said she would discuss the building plans at APEC’s annual membership meeting on Oct. 20 at 4 p.m.

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