Friday, April 6, 2012

Senior Community Center

This vote will be up to the citizens of Newburyport on Tuesday, June 5th.  There are three separate votes on one ballot:
  • Nock-Molin School rehab
  • New Bresnahan School
  • Senior Community Center

For me, I'm arguing Yes-Yes-Yes because we as a community need all three buildings.  The Nock-Molin is a disaster waiting to happen, the Bresnahan is a disaster that has happened because we've kicked the can down the road for twenty years, and the Senior Community Center is long overdue with Newburyport being one of a handful of the 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts that doesn't have one to provide a central place for elders in the community.

Here is the latest on the Senior Community Center from the City's Planning Department website at

Proposed Newburyport Senior Community Center
off High Street
at the site of the old Bresnahan School
Following is a status update on the Senior Community Center project at the site of the Bresnahan Elementary School.  Also included are various illustrative renderings of the project.
  • Project Summary: The City is proposing the design and construction of a new 16,000 square feet (SF) Senior Community Center on the site of the current Bresnahan School building once a new school has been built to the south.  This will include a 1,600 SF multipurpose function room that will be available to not only the Senior Community Center but the broader community for a variety of purposes.  In addition, it will include 2,400 SF of space for a compatible social service agency tenant which will help subsidize the annual operational costs of the facility, and/or provide readily available expansion space for the Senior Community Center in the future.
  • Site Availability: The location of the current Bresnahan School is an excellent site for a Senior Community Center, particularly compared to the number of other sites examined in the past, due to the following characteristics:
    • situated in the core of Newburyport off of our main transportation corridor High Street;
    • land is already owned by the City;
    • site has a long established history of institutional public use;
    • ample space for parking;
    • outdoor space for gardens, patios, trails, and other amenities;
    • potential space for future expansion;
    • site will be clean and cleared (upon completion of the new Bresnahan School).
  • Existing Facilities are Inadequate: The number of people in Newburyport over age 65 is about 3,100 today, with more than 4,000 over age 60, and the number of seniors is projected to rise in the coming years.  Currently, services for Newburyport’s seniors have been based in a very small rented space at the Salvation Army for the past quarter century, and various services have had to be scattered throughout the community at the library, the hospital, various churches, the Elks Club, Atria Merrimack Place, and other locations. 
  • Rehabilitation of Old Bresnahan Unfeasible: The City thoroughly explored the possibility of adapting and rehabilitating the core of the existing Bresnahan School building for a new Senior Community Center facility.  However, the engineers’ evaluation of the building’s systems found that there would be very little to salvage, and itemized cost estimates demonstrated that a rehabilitation approach would lead not to cost savings but would in fact be cost-prohibitive at $7-$8 million.
  • New Facility: The cost of a new 16,000 SF facility is estimated to be $6.5 million, including design and construction, furnishings, and contingencies.  The two-story wood-framed facility will be energy efficient and attractive, and will provide office space for staff to provide assistance regarding taxes, food stamps, fuel assistance, etc.; kitchen space (e.g., Meals on Wheels); dining room; drop-in areas; meeting rooms; activity rooms (exercise, painting, bingo, bridge, dancing, knitting); storage space; health services and counseling; and large multi-purpose rooms available to the community for a variety of functions.  There will also be outdoor patio and garden space, plus parking for approximately 100 vehicles.
  • Vote Scheduled: The community is voting on June 5, 2012 on whether to fund three projects: the Senior Community Center project at $6.5 million; the new Bresnahan School project at $38.8 million (with a $17.56 million reimbursement from the state); and the Nock/Molin School renovation project.  An affirmative vote on each of these projects would provide legal authority for the City to borrow up to a maximum of the stated project cost (but no higher), and then service the bonds with a temporary property tax increase called a “debt exclusion”. Voters will be asked to approve these projects separately with three separate debt exclusions on June 5th.  However, for the sake of clarity, it is important to note that the Senior Community Center can NOT be implemented without the voters also approving the new Bresnahan School project.  The Senior Community Center project is contingent on the school project, as it depends upon a new school being built and the old one demolished so that the site becomes available.  If approved, students will remain in the existing Bresnahan School until construction of the new school building is complete by 2014, which would then allow construction of the Senior Community Center.
  • Project Plans & Renderings: