BI Senior Center Looking at Options for a Major Expansion of its Facility
The Bainbridge Island Senior Community Center (https://biseniorcenter.org/) has occupied the same basic footprint at 370 Brien Dr. S.E., – just above Waterfront Park – going on four decades now.
Members have come and gone, executive directors have come and gone, and even the center’s landlord has changed hands – from the BI Metro Parks District to an independent, stand-alone nonprofit organization. But one thing – more or less – has remained constant: the building.
Now the Senior Center, led by Executive Director Reed Price and a board of 12 members, is mulling plans to at least look at the possibility of expanding the 6,500 square foot facility.
Thanks to some conceptual drawings put together by local architect Charlie Wenzlau, Price is holding the Senior Center’s Annual Membership Meeting this week, and part of the discussion will center on “what we might want to put here,” Price says. “Basically, we would replace the existing property by doubling its size to include senior housing” possibly on a second floor, or an adjacent property, along with dedicated parking and more space for the center’s expanding programs.
Senior Center membership has more than doubled since Price first took over the organization’s reins in 2017, from 770 members to 1,810 members at the end of 2022. Adding to the center’s desire to take a hard look at growing its facility is the island’s significant senior population. According to statistics compiled by the Bainbridge Community Foundation, islanders 65 years and older now make up 26.4% of Bainbridge’s nearly 25,000 permanent residents.
“Our programs are exceeding our capacity,” Price explains. “We’re recognizing that the senior population of the island is exceeding forecasted growth rates… That’s why we’re doing this.”
The current plan draws upon an effort started in 2007 when a community task force hired a Seattle architectural consulting firm to draw up some renderings to upgrade the existing center in its current state.
However, those plans have been gathering dust since 2008 when “the Great Recession hit and put everything on ice,” Price says, while thumbing through the old document. “It was a great idea 15 years ago, and is even a better idea now.”
The new Wenzlau Architects’ concept calls for potentially two entrances, north from Bjune St. (below Town & Country Market), and south from Brien Dr., where the existing main entrance is located. Some 20 parking spaces would be built on a lower level, along with additional street spaces.
The new building would be two stories tall, allowing the Senior Center to double its square footage. For example, the Thrift Store – the center’s biggest revenue generator – would more than double to 1,200 square feet, Price says.
Huney Hall, which serves as a Community Room, would see it’s capacity rise from 100 people in its present configuration to roughly 245 attendees. The multi-purpose room would continue to hold concerts, events, meetings, exercise classes and so on and so forth.
Other small offices and meeting rooms, such as the center’s lounge, kitchen and library would also expand under the proposed plan. Price is also envisioning a “Day Care,” or “Day Stay” room for seniors who may have some mental or physical challenges, and who may need a safe place to hang out between activities. Another plan would transform the center’s current coffee and pastry table into a more “formalized coffee bar, kind of like a little café,” Price notes.
So what will all this cost? Based on current construct and materials cost estimates, Price figures the expansion could reach the $10 million mark, and, in all likelihood, would be paid for by a combination of grants and fundraising. But, he emphasizes, nothing is set in stone or perhaps in this case concrete!
“The building (itself) is owned by the City,” Price says, adding that BISCC pays no rent to occupy it. With this week’s discussion, “we’re (simply) revisiting the work of the 2007 (task force) and trying to advance it.”
“There’s no clarity on (future) ownership or management,” Price further explains. “We’ve talked openly with (City Manager) Blair King about it and we’ve confirmed that this is the right way to go about doing this… The City is a valuable partner for us.”
Price says this week’s meeting is for Senior Center members only, and that as the project proceeds down the road, the public will be brought into the discussion.
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