By Brenda Crowell

Staff Reporter

While Mendon’s senior population is booming, the existing Senior Center’s size has remained unchanged. Senior Center Director Amy Wilson Kent and the Council on Aging aims to change that with a proposal to renovate the Center into a bigger, more accessible facility that will better serve the needs of Mendon’s seniors.

Kent, along with COA Co-Chairs Peg Nogueira and Earl Pearlman and architect Michael Petrovick presented the proposal at the March 16 meeting of the Select Board.

“In addition to our ever-increasing senior population, which has expanded by leaps and bounds in the last decade and will continue to do so, there are two other factors that bring us here tonight,” Kent said. “The first is that at the 2014 Annual Town Meeting, the voters approved to purchase 70-plus acres of land at 52 Providence St., adjacent to the Senior Center. When that took place, that was also to include a one-acre parcel for future Senior Center expansion. Secondly, in 2018, at the Annual Town Meeting, voters approved an architectural and engineering study for the Mendon Senior Center.”

The project goals and vision, as outlined by Petrovick, include a drop-off area, ample parking, improved Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility, larger capacity, more program space, integrated outdoor space, storage, offices, and a defined reception and check-in area.

“The goal for this project was for the Senior Center to become a real hub of socialization and really a resource for the elder people of the town,” Petrovick told the Board. “The seniors have outgrown the building. The role of the Senior Center has actively changed.”

The new Senior Center would add 3,400 square feet to the existing lower level and 3,500 square feet to the current first floor, which currently encompass 2,520 square feet apiece. Once the project is completed, the building would have 11,940 square feet of space.

“I would say that if you look at the statistics, seniors in Mendon comprise about 25 percent of the population and we’re only going to be increasing,” Nogueira said. “For some people, the Senior Center is their only socialization. We are also responsible for the food pantry, and in an emergency situation, the Senior Center is the site to go because we have some beds there and we have food there in the kitchen.”

Nogueira added that the first floor of the current Senior Center has a capacity of 50 people.

“Our Friends organization already has 49 members who want to come to the Center and enjoy the meetings and put in their input, so we are really cramped for space,” she said.

Per the presentation, finishing 1,500 square feet of the lower level would cost $175 per square foot for $262,500. New construction and renovation of the first floor would be $450 per square foot for 6,020 square feet, or $2,709,000. The total cost to complete the building would be $2,971,500. Soft costs, such as an Owner’s Project Manager (OPM), design, engineering, testing, and permits are estimated at 25 percent of the building cost, or $740,000, and an additional $75,000 is slated for furniture, fixtures, and equipment. The overall total cost of the entire project would be $3,786,500.

“This is the culmination of several years of planning, dreaming, trying to figure out what we wanted,” said Pearlman. “We started off by making the usual wish list, and then we did a lot of visitations around this area and further west, visiting other centers that had expansions and had also used the same architect.”

Pearlman, Kent, and Nogueira quickly realized that the scope of what they wanted to accomplish would be eclipsed by the cost. Undaunted, they looked for ways to save.

“We had to whittle it down and say okay, what do we absolutely need, so that when the senior population started to expand in Mendon, we would be able to meet their needs, which right now we’re having a great deal of difficulty doing,” Pearlman said.

Town Administrator Kimberly Newman noted the group taking the time to scale the project down and come back with a reasonable and more affordable price was commendable.

The Select Board also appeared to support the renovation.

“We should recognize that this project is probably the highest need of the community at this point,” said Select Board Chair Mark Reil.

Reil suggested that funds from the potential sale of the town-owned Morrison Drive property could be used to bankroll the new Senior Center.

“My thought is that, as I look out at some of the people in this room, you’ve done so much for this town and you really are this town,” said Select Board member Michael Merolli. “It’s time for us to take care of the senior citizens.”