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Clubhouse proves to be big neighborhood draw

Eichler-inspired building complements Greenmeadow

It's well past Christmas and Hannukah, but twinkling garlands of white lights still adorned the "great room" earlier this week at the new Greenmeadow Community Association clubhouse, located at 303 Parkside Drive.

The lights were supposed to be temporary, but association members liked them so much, they asked for them to remain. Soon, the lights will be replaced or augmented by other colorful decorations: perhaps feather boas, masks and other colorful additions to celebrate Mardi Gras.

Association Social Chairwoman Lisa Knox said the February event is the latest planned for the venue.

On a recent morning, she graciously offered a steaming cup of frothy cappuccino in the adjoining kitchenette. The service area has a dedicated ice maker that can create ice by the pound and a ginormous double-door freezer for storing multiple tubs of ice cream, bags of ice and hors d'oeuvres.

Listening closely and with a little imagination, one can almost hear phantoms of laughter, clinking glasses and the camaraderie that has taken place here nearly every day since the clubhouse opened last October. "We've had 'date night' where parents can drop their kids off for three hours, block parties, football preview parties, quarterly luncheons for seniors and a Santa party," Knox said, among the many festivities. Besides the upcoming Mardi Gras party, Knox wants to plan an Oktoberfest party, she said.

The new 2,100-square-foot great room and kitchen are the culmination of more than five years of planning and efforts by members of this neighborhood in south Palo Alto. The community saved, fund-raised and secured a loan to renovate the aging center and swimming pool that developer Joseph Eichler built in the 1950s.

Eichler designed the community center — which includes a park with towering redwoods, a 4,350-square-foot six-lane pool and a preschool — with the intention of creating a true community among his tract of 300 homes. But the people living in those homes decided they would go one step in furtherance of that vision for the 21st century.

The $2-million clubhouse (the cost includes the furnishings), designed by Kobza Associates, broke ground in mid-January 2018 and opened about 10 months later. It complements the surrounding Eichler-community architecture, with floor-to-ceiling glass windows that look out on the verdant park on one side and to the renovated, $800,000 sparkling, aquamarine, heated pool that opened in April 2018, on the other.

Inside, members often watch television, read or do work on their laptops while children take swimming lessons or splash in the pool. There are two areas to sit on comfortable sofas or chairs while studying or catching up on the latest neighborhood news. Each member has a key card to get into the building.

When it's party time, the clubhouse offers a full complement of dinner service for 60 people, Knox said. And there's a donated upright piano in the corner to accompany residents in song.

Association Vice President Jeff Kmetec pointed to the outside barbecues on the newly constructed patio. Around the back, there's a fire pit and seating for outdoor fireside chats.

The clubhouse has been a popular gathering spot, he said. The grand opening attracted 400 people; Halloween brought 250. On average, about 50 to 60 people attend the events, Knox said.

"If there's a party for 300, we just open the doors," Kmetec added, where people can spill out into the park or onto the deck.

At this point, the clubhouse is only available to Greenmeadow members. But over time it could be rented to outsiders, he said.

"It's a social experiment. It's starting to build as sense of community," Knox added.

So far, people have been good about maintaining that neighborly spirit by cleaning up after themselves. Knox serves as the "de facto" maintenance person, emptying the dishwasher, for example.

The clubhouse offers ADA-accessible showers and disability-compliant bathrooms that can double to accommodate parents who need to accompany a child of the opposite sex, Kmetec said.

Kmetec, who largely oversaw the clubhouse construction, said the city required a fire-sprinkler system that had to have its own water system. That was the most challenging part of the development, since the association had to run an entirely new line to the street for a water hookup.

Looking forward, the clubhouse could soon be used for more than parties and as a place for relaxation, Kmetec said.

"Greenmeadow has always had an emergency-prep committee. We're thinking the clubhouse should be equipped as the focal point for a disaster."

To that end, he's thinking about adding a filter that could turn the pool's 175,000 gallons of water into a potable drinking source. They might add a generator so the clubhouse could be turned into a disaster center if needed, he said.

There is one thing people wanted when plans were still on the drawing board: a weight room. Kmetec said that wasn't affordable. Still, there's a secure, roomy storage area that can serve as a wine room, he said. It's a compromise the Greenmeadow community could happily live with, he said.

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