CHATHAM — Presenting to a nearly empty meeting room, officials unveiled plans Monday for a $8.27 million senior center at 1610 Main St., West Chatham.
It was the coronavirus, not any lack of interest, that kept the gallery empty at Monday’s selectmen’s meeting. The session was televised live and citizens could submit questions and comments by email.
Featuring spacious activity rooms, a full kitchen and a lounge and deck overlooking Bearse’s Pond, the new senior center would have room for future expansion, architect Joel Bargmann said.
While the anticipated price tag is higher than the $6.6 million projected for a senior center on Middle Road in 2019, Owners Project Manager Rick Pomroy said the extra expense is largely because of the delay, not the change in location. If the Middle Road project were built today, it would also cost just over $8 million, he said.
Voters approved the West Chatham location at a special town meeting in January, and will be asked to appropriate construction funds at the May annual town meeting. Voters may also be asked to consider a competing location for a senior center on Stepping Stones Road, though the Monomoy Regional School Committee, which controls the land, has voted not to give it up. A measure seeking $75,000 to do a feasibility study similar to the one on the West Chatham property was approved at the March 7 special town meeting.
The detailed plans for 1610 Main St., available for download from the town website, call for a two-story, 10,965-square-foot senior center with a rectangular footprint aligned on the eastern side of the property, closest to conservation land. The front of the building features windows that illuminate the main multipurpose room, a 2,020-square-foot space that can be partitioned into two large rooms. Also downstairs is a 530-square-foot lounge with comfortable seating, a fireplace and windows overlooking the conservation land and Bearse’s Pond. Just outside, a covered porch provides additional views of the outdoors.
The two entrances are situated on the west side and rear of the building, with both locations within view of offices. That way, staff can respond quickly if a client slips or falls in the parking lot, Bargmann said. The first floor would also feature a large kitchen, pantry and walk-in freezer.
An elevator leads to the second floor and two more program rooms, one of which can be partitioned into two. There is a conference room, outreach offices, and a more private space that can be used alternately for tax preparation advice and for the town nurse. A large deck will provide views of the pond, and together with a roof overhang provides 1,580 square feet of space for future expansion for uses like an adult day center.
“This is an extremely efficient plan. There’s not a lot of wasted space,” Bargmann said.
Parking is located on the west side of the lot and at the rear, with the most distant parking space located less than 125 feet from the closest entrance. Thanks to a nine-foot retaining wall at the rear of the property—not unlike ones used at the nearby Habitat for Humanity homes—the parking lot has only a gentle slope, “very workable and manageable for senior citizens,” engineer David Michniewicz said. The retaining wall would be topped by an 18-inch barrier and a fence to keep cars from going over the edge, he added.
Transportation engineer Amy Archer said her firm studied traffic data and conducted a two-day traffic count to determine current vehicle speeds. Adjusted for summer traffic levels and for the anticipated reconfiguration of Route 28 in front of the property, the expected vehicle flow in the area would not be excessive for access to a new senior center, Archer said. Because of the straightness of the road in the area, sight lines would also be adequate. Because current plans for the reconfigured Route 28 do not call for a median in front of 1610 Main St., Archer made the assumption that left-hand turns in and out of the property would be allowed, and said there was no indication that left turns would cause significant delays.
“I can imagine waiting for traffic to free up,” Selectman Jeffrey Dykens said. “That’s my opinion. I’m not a traffic expert,” he said. But if the project is approved, the town might consider petitioning MassHighway to install right-turn-only signs at the entrance, DPW Director Tom Temple said.
The $8,279,777 project estimate includes a 5 percent contingency, and includes the cost of construction, engineering, furnishing and equipment, along with related expenses. If approved at town meeting, the project would be put out to bid in November, with construction expected to take 13 or 14 months, Pomroy said. The job will take longer than it would have a year ago and will cost more, thanks to changes in the industry, he said. A similar senior center project in Falmouth saw a 36 percent increase in construction costs because of a single year delay, he said.
“We’re spoiled by the Monomoy [High School building] experience” when the project happened at the right time in the construction market, Dykens said.
“You hit the market perfectly with the fire station as well,” Pomroy said.
Public comment on the senior center plan will be accepted through March 23 at 9 p.m. by emailing email@example.com.