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Former school building is site of new senior center

Date: 2/2/2010

Feb. 3, 2010.

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

HOLYOKE -- City officials gathered at the present Council on Aging (COA) senior center in the lower level of the War Memorial last week to announce the location of the new senior center.

Kathy Bowler, executive director of the COA, said the former McHugh Early Childhood Center at 165 Sargeant St.would be the site of the new center.

Bowler explained to Reminder Publications the building hasn't been used by the School Department for over a year. It was chosen because it is a central location, on a bus route, has plenty of parking and is already owned by the city, she said.

The building would be demolished to make room for the new one, she added. The existing building is too big for their needs. Initially, it was thought the building could be renovated to suit the features of the new center, but Bowler said all of walls are load-bearing, making eliminating some or moving others impossible without compromising the integrity of the structure.

The new building and location will offer much easier access and allay some seniors' fears about the downtown neighborhood, she added.

So far, she said the choice of the school building has been met with a "positive reaction" from seniors, she said.

At this time initial design work will begin with the final plans readied for a groundbreaking sometimes in the summer or fall of 2011. The building would be completed in 2012.

The city has committed $4.5 million for the project and Bowler said once the final plans are completed, the architects would have final budget figures. If necessary the COA will return to the city council for an additional appropriation.

Fran Wilhelmi, president of the Friends of the COA, said there are several fundraisers for the group's contribution to the center's construction cost. There will be a cocktail party at the Log Cabin on April 18 and a pancake breakfast at Appleby's in late April. There will also be a picnic this summer and a tag sale in the fall. Friends member Barbara Bernard will be staging a production of the play "Love Letters" also.

Additional details will be released on these events closer to their dates.