New Senior Center Could Cost $7-10 Million

By: Tim Wood

Topics: Senior issues , council on aging

Chatham's current senior center. FILE PHOTO

CHATHAM – While there's still a lot of refining to do, options for a new senior center presented to the council on aging board Monday estimated it will cost between $7 and $10 million to build the facility.

Three different size buildings, each with numerous program options – including an adult day center – based on needs assessments and demographic studies of the town's population were outlined by Joel Bargmann of consultant Bargmann Hendrie and Archetype, Inc.

The council on aging's current senior center on Stony Hill Road is seen as inadequate for the needs of the town's growing senior population, which Bargmann said includes different age groups, each with their own programming needs. Younger seniors, aged 65 to 74, are a “very active age group,” and make up 20 percent of the town's population. Elders 75 and older make up the same percentage of the town's population and are often less active. The town also has a significant number of seniors aged 85 and older.

According to a demographic study done as part of the space needs program, when the 18 percent of the population aged 55 to 64 are factored in, 59 percent of Chatham's population are seniors. That percentage is expected to increase by 2022.

The current senior center contains 8,610 square feet on three floors. Bargmann presented variations for buildings with base size of 12,000 square feet; 14,000 square feet and 16,000 square feet. Each included a number of spaces that the current building does not allow, including a wellness center, game room and additional office space, as well as a significantly larger multi-purpose room that would also serve as a dining room. There are also options for a senior day facility to be added to the senior center with between 1,300 and 1,800 square feet.

Currently, a number of Chatham residents currently attend a senior day program operated by the Orleans Council On Aging.

The cost range given by Bargmann for the lowest square footage option was $7 to 8 million; the middle option was estimated at $8 to 9 million; and the third and largest option had a cost range of $9 to $10 million.

So far no site has been identified where a new senior center could be built. A preliminary examination of a dozen or so town-owned sites resulted in several being eliminated. Knowing the potential square footage of a facility, along with parking and other site requirements, will help narrow the viable choices, said Terry Whalen, the town's principal projects and operations administrator.

Officials had been thinking in terms of a single-story building, since one of the problems of the current senior center is that it is spread over three floors. Bargmann, however, said the trend is toward two-story senior centers.

“You're getting away from the sprawling, super wide hallways with railings on the sides that look like assisted living,” he said. Along with reducing the footprint, a two-story building creates a density that makes for a more active appearing facility, he said.

“That's the most startling thing I've heard this morning,” said Selectman Dean Nicastro.

Asked about the expense of a single-story vs. a two-story building, Bargmann said it is basically a wash; a single-story building requires a larger footprint and bigger site, but savings are realized by not having to build stairways or have elevators. A two-story building is also more energy-efficient. He said every senior center his company has worked on in the past five years have been two stories.

Recently built senior centers in Needham and Falmouth include features that are less institutional and more community-oriented, Bargmann said. For instance, the kitchen at the Needham facility, which while designed for commercial cooking, is also set up so it can be used for cooking classes, “so the kitchen becomes really more about community,” he said. Other spaces must have built-in flexibility. For instance, an arts and crafts room has to be able to accommodate digital arts as well as traditional hand-made creations, he said.

Monday's session including a lot of dry numbers and figures, Bargmann acknowledged, but said it's a necessary part of the process.

“This is the foundational step that goes into the building,” he said.

Preliminary floor plans were included in Monday's presentation, but Bargmann said before moving forward, the consultants need to work with the COA staff to answer several questions, such as changes they'd like to see to the present building to improve services and programs. They also need to consider the impact on different age groups, develop the day center concept, and rethink everything based on realistic budget concerns.

COA Director Mandi Speakman said the consultants will also visit the Orleans day center to help refine that segment of the program.

“This is a starting point,” she said of the information presented Monday. “This is something tangible to work from.”

Boston-based Bargmann, Hendrie and Archetype, Inc., is working under a $21,375 contract funded from the town manager's consulting budget. A preliminary schedule discussed earlier this summer includes funding for an owners project manager and final plans at the 2018 annual town meeting, with construction funds going before voters the following year.

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