Note: This story was updated at 1:20 p.m.
The Oak Ridge Senior Advisory Board has recommended that the new senior center be built on the west side of the Oak Ridge Civic Center.
The board unanimously recommended the site on a voice vote during a special meeting on Monday morning.
The site was one of two options presented to the board during Monday’s meeting. The board had been presented four options earlier, but one of those had been ruled out and two others had been combined.
The proposed site west of the Civic Center could have a building of about 15,000 square feet. It could include a kitchen and administrative space; game and exercise rooms; a large multi-purpose room for activities such as dancing, bingo, and card games; and billiard/pool and media rooms. Dancing is the most preferred activity, according to surveys, said Pat Gengozian, chair of the Senior Advisory Board, or SAB.
The site could be considered by the Oak Ridge City Council in May. The site is just west of the indoor pool and south of the parking lot on the west side of the Civic Center.
No cost estimate has been reported yet. It’s also not clear yet how many rooms the Senior Center could have.
Seniors say they’ve been promised a new senior center for years, dating back to the turn of the century, when the Oak Ridge Senior Center was moved from the Midtown Community Center on Robertsville Road to a county-owned building on Emory Valley Road.
They’ve been in a temporary home at the Oak Ridge Civic Center since earlier this year.
After Monday’s meeting, officials said next steps in the process for building the long-awaited senior center include geotechnical testing at the site endorsed by seniors on Monday.
The second site option considered but not recommended on Monday would have built the Senior Center east of the wing that includes the Club Room and A/B Room and south of the Oak Ridge Public Library. That site would have had a smaller footprint, officials said, with about 10,775 square feet of space.
A conceptual study said the site option endorsed by the Senior Advisory Board would simplify construction and not impair Recreation Center operations, create better options for parking lot expansion, provide good visual access from Oak Ridge Turnpike, and connect to the rear of the Community Center, with a shared patio.
The other option, the one with the smaller footprint south of the Public Library, would have been closer to the creek that runs through Alvin K. Bissell Park, and it would have required many trees to be removed, according to the conceptual study. Parking would have been farther away from the Senior Center and more difficult to expand, the location wouldn’t have been as prominent from the Turnpike, and existing utilities would not be as convenient, the study said.
About two dozen people, including board members, attended Monday’s 40-minute special meeting at the Oak Ridge Civic Center.
The board said the option they endorsed Monday combined two of the previous options. Both of those previous two options would have had the Senior Center on the west side of the Civic Center, but in slightly different locations, one closer to the Turnpike and one farther back.
The second option presented Monday was similar to the third option presented earlier, but without a second story and with a “footprint” that is now bigger.
The fourth option that had been presented earlier could have created some competition between disabled parking for the Senior Center and disabled parking for the Civic Center. It would have wrapped around the north and west side of the Community Center, where the gymnasium is located. Officials said there was no connection to outdoor spaces from that location, and there would have been some relocation costs, among other issues.
“We’re trying to be as cost-effective as we can,” Gengozian said. At the same time, the board is taking into account what users want, she said. The current temporary center inside the Civic Center is not real accessible, she said.
“We’re trying to make it (the new center) as accessible as we can,” Gengozian said.
She said the option endorsed by the board on Monday would have a covered drop-off area That was the number two criteria for the senior center, after getting the building, the number one criteria.
SAB member Lisa Plante said the Senior Center site option endorsed Monday should have the least impact and a limited impact on activities at A.K. Bissell Park.
“We’ve worked very hard” on using a small portion of the park, Gengozian said.
“It was a very conscious decision to put it close to the Civic Center,” board member Marty Adler-Jasny said.
Those at Monday’s meeting briefly mentioned the senior center in Karns, which they said is 8,000 square feet. At 15,000 square feet, the Oak Ridge Senior Center could be almost twice as large. But there was a brief mention that the size of the Oak Ridge center could be reduced if necessary to help fund it.
The option endorsed by the SAB on Monday is expected to make parking more accessible to seniors.
SAB members said the Civic Center could be used for overflow activities such as guitar and knitting lessons when required.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
See previous story, including the earlier four site options, here.
Do you appreciate this story or our work in general? If so, please consider a monthly subscription to Oak Ridge Today. See our Subscribe page here. Thank you for reading Oak Ridge Today.
Copyright 2017 Oak Ridge Today. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.