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Centennial Senior Center to expand at new location

  • Joe Turnbull measures a section of heating duct  at the Smokestack Center for the space that will house the Centennial Senior center; Wednesday, February 20, 2013. The Centennial Senior Center has been using the West Street Ward House for its activities, but the new space is roughly four times larger. <br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor Staff)

    Joe Turnbull measures a section of heating duct at the Smokestack Center for the space that will house the Centennial Senior center; Wednesday, February 20, 2013. The Centennial Senior Center has been using the West Street Ward House for its activities, but the new space is roughly four times larger.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor Staff)

  • A work lamp lights up the future meeting room of the Centennial Senior Center; Wednesday, February 20, 2013. The Centennial Senior Center has been using the West Street Ward House for its activities, but the new space at the Smokestack Center is roughly four times larger. <br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor Staff)

    A work lamp lights up the future meeting room of the Centennial Senior Center; Wednesday, February 20, 2013. The Centennial Senior Center has been using the West Street Ward House for its activities, but the new space at the Smokestack Center is roughly four times larger.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor Staff)

  • Joe Turnbull measures a section of heating duct  at the Smokestack Center for the space that will house the Centennial Senior center; Wednesday, February 20, 2013. The Centennial Senior Center has been using the West Street Ward House for its activities, but the new space is roughly four times larger. <br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor Staff)
  • A work lamp lights up the future meeting room of the Centennial Senior Center; Wednesday, February 20, 2013. The Centennial Senior Center has been using the West Street Ward House for its activities, but the new space at the Smokestack Center is roughly four times larger. <br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor Staff)

Concord’s Centennial Senior Center will soon have a new home.

After renting space at the city-owned West Street Ward House for more than three years, the center will move into a North State Street building this spring. The 4,400 square-foot facility in the Smokestack Center plaza is undergoing renovations. When it opens in April, the senior center will have a gathering area with a fireplace, two large classrooms, a large meeting space and two dozen parking spaces.

“I think everyone’s looking at the next stop in the evolution of Centennial,” said Executive Director Vivien Green.

Financial problems forced the organization to close and sell its building on Regional Drive in 2006, just two years after building the $4.6 million, 22,000 square-foot center.

In 2009 the organization began offering programs at the West Street Ward House, where it leased space from the city. For the past year, the organization has partnered with the Concord Parks and Recreation Department to provide activities for seniors.

Now, Centennial Senior Center is ready to grow again and create a facility that will be “sustainable into the future,” said Green, who has been the group’s executive director for two years.

Standing amidst construction crews in the Smokestack Center last week, Concord resident Will Ashworth said he’s looking forward to the new center. Ashworth, a retired nonprofit director and hearing aid salesman, served on a focus group to choose a new location.

“I was at the older Centennial . . . and then it kind of was nothing for seniors, then Parks and Rec. got involved,” said Ashworth.

Ashworth is now providing input about programs and classes for the new center. He said senior activities, such as the art classes he takes through Centennial Senior Center at the West Street Ward House, allow him to use his brain and socialize. Seniors need that, he said.

“It provides us a place to go to,” he said. “I think, in general, it gives you something to look forward to.”

Green said the organization’s endowment funds will cover the cost of opening the new center – no fundraising was required, and seniors won’t be charged membership fees.

Some classes will be offered for free, while other activities will have a cost.

The center will be open to everyone over the age of 50, and will not be limited to Concord residents.

With about 14 percent of New Hampshire’s population over the age of 65, Green said there’s a need for more senior programming.

Renovation work began for the new space at the end of last year, the search for a new building began more than a year ago.

Green said the organization’s board examined its past financial troubles, and has long planned to expand again.

“I think we’ve taken the time since that happened to really think about what we need to provide,” Green said.

Patricia Bossom, who now attends senior yoga classes at the West Street Ward House, said she’s looking forward to the added space and accessible parking lot at the Smokestack Center.

Seniors have to park on the street when they attend programs on West Street, but the new center has a parking lot just outside its front door.

“I just hope that we can get more people to come,” Bossom said. “I’m big in trying to improve my health and I like to get other people to realize that it’s important to do now.”

At the new site, Green plans to hire three new employees. She is now the group’s only full-time employee at the West Street Ward House.

Plans for classes and programs include:

∎ Exercise, meditation and yoga classes.

∎ Technology classes on using the internet, Facebook or smart phones.

∎ Monthly luncheons.

∎ Partnerships with health care organizations, AARP, the city’s programs and other senior centers.

∎ Field trips.

∎ Cooking classes.

Green’s already looking ahead to the needs of Baby Boomers as they near retirement. The new center will focus on technology, offering classes based around using computers. The classrooms will have large video screens.

The move also comes as the Concord Parks and Recreation Department plans to relocate its own senior programming.

Next month, the city’s senior programming will move to the new Heights Community Center in the former Dame School building. The city will eventually build a new community center on the site.

The city will expand
its own senior program offerings, said Parks and Recreation Director David Gill.

“I think it’s a great opportunity,” Gill said. “I think the city’s seniors are going to have a lot of new opportunities to take part in additional programming both at Centennial and at the Heights Community Center.”

Ruth Cherrette, an 80-year-old Concord resident, said she was concerned when she first heard about the moves. She is an active member of the city’s Sunset Club for seniors, which will move to the Heights.

“When we initially heard that (Centennial Senior Center) was going to be relocating somewhere else and we were going to be relocating to the Dame School, I was wondering how that would go,” Cherrette said. “But (Green) assured us that she would still be in touch with us.”

Cherrette is also looking forward to seeing the new center on North State Street; Green has promised to notify seniors and give them a tour when it opens.

The new, larger space at the Smokestack Center will provide seniors a place to gather, Green said. She hopes it will attract seniors who would otherwise be inactive or lonely.

“There’s too many cases, I think, of older folks who lose their support network,” she said.

Richard Bolduc, a 76-year-old Concord resident, said he’s looking forward to a greater number of activities and trips at the Centennial Senior Center. He’s been attending programs on West Street since his wife died.

“I lost my wife a year and a half ago and right now, thank God for the Ward House,” Bolduc said. “. . . You know, it’s like a big family down there. I enjoy it.”

(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or
lmccrystal@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)

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