SPRINGFIELD – After many years, the seniors living in the Hungry Hill section finally have a senior center to call their own.
Mayor Domenic Sarno led a contingent of city officials on May 26 to officially open the Hungry Hill Senior Center. Formerly the Liberty Street branch library, the new center was renovated largely by city employees, saving the city money and making it possible.
Sarno called the new center “the heart of Hungry Hill.”
The center had shared space in the basement of a now closed church and then at the Ray Sullivan Fire Center. Sarno explained the new center will include a work nearing completion next door that will be named after the late Mary Troy, director of the Hungry Hill Senior Center, and will have parking in the rear. Currently the long-closed home of former Springfield Mayor Daniel Brunton is being prepared for demolition for the parking lot.
Jan Denney, director of Elder Affairs, said people who had not previously come to either of the senior center’s sites before are now attending the new one. She added that non-senior residents are coming in asking questions about city services.
City Council President Michael Fenton said the origins of the project came about through a series of events. He noted the park location next door had once been an A&P Supermarket, and after its demolition the lot became an official parking area for other businesses. Once the city had cleared the ownership of the property, discussions arose about its best use.
Fenton said that at about the same time the library was considering the future of its branches. The Liberty Street branch was small, had no parking and was closed.
Now, with much renovation and parking area coming later this summer, it has been re-purposed.
Patrick Sullivan, executive director of the Springfield Department of Parks, Buildings and Recreation Management, said, “It took a team of people to do this.”
He said the Disability Commission provided $80,000 from its budget towards the improvements. He noted how the drop ceiling was removed to reveal a rounded plaster ceiling. A kitchenette was added, along with new restrooms, an entrance for the disabled and a conference room, he said.
The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department assisted in the renovations, and Sullivan noted the building would be receiving a new boiler.
The Sampson family of Sampson Family Chapels donated furniture for the large one room space.
Denney told Reminder Publications she hopes the center will begin offering evening programs that would be a “ridge for boomers.” She said that retirement fort baby boomers would be different than that of their parents’ generation.
State Rep. Jose Tosado said, “This is exactly the way it should exactly work – exactly how government should work.”