City evaluating sites for a new senior citizen center in Lexington

bfortune@herald-leader.comJanuary 31, 2013 

Lexington's government is evaluating sites for a new senior citizens center to replace the one at the corner of Alumni Drive and Nicholasville Road. The senior center, built in 1983, is outdated and is quickly becoming too small to meet the needs of a large and aging Baby Boomer generation, officials said.

"What we need is a new center that will serve us well into the future," Beth Mills, commissioner of social services, told Urban County Council members at their work session Tuesday.

On the short list are the former Kroger store in Beaumont Centre and former site of The Springs Inn, 2020 Harrodsburg Road, which closed Nov. 23, 2008. The landmark motel was razed the next year. A CVS drugstore was built on the corner, but the rest of the property remains vacant.

Mills and consultants from Lifespan Design Studio in Loveland, Ohio, updated council members on plans for a senior center. The proposal calls for a 46,000-square-foot building with 4,000 square feet of patio and covered drop-off areas, and 250 parking spaces. The site needs to be at least 3.6 acres. Mills said the new senior center could be new construction or a renovated building.

The price tag is estimated at $15 million, including land and construction costs, Mills said. The next step is to get detailed information about the two sites, create architectural drawings and come up with exact construction figures.

The center would be included in the city budget as a capital improvement. In addition to city financing, the center would be eligible for a variety of funding options including Community Development Block Grant money, Mills said.

The current 30-year-old senior center is 14,000 square feet, with 120 parking spaces on 2 acres. The only access in or out of the property is from Alumni Drive.

Consultants conducted preliminary site evaluation on six sites: Kroger at Beaumont Centre, The Springs Inn, Lansdowne Merrick Park off Dove Run Road, the former Winn-Dixie building on South Broadway, and the current senior center.

All but the Kroger building and Springs Inn were removed from the list because of site deficiencies, consultant Doug Gallow said.

Gallow, an architect, and his wife, Ellen, a gerontologist, are principals in Lifespan Design Studio, specializing in the research and design of senior centers. The firm has designed about 60 centers across the country, Gallow said.

The consultants gave a cursory look at the long-vacant Exception building on Trent Boulevard, the old Continental Inn site at New Circle and Winchester roads, and the Jefferson Center on Maryland Avenue. Gallow said all three had "significant drawbacks."

The best asset of the 5-acre Springs Inn site is its "central location, in close proximity to senior residences in the community," Gallow said. The property has room for a building, 250 parking spaces, outdoor activities and multiple access points.

Some council members were concerned about Harrodsburg Road traffic and the possible difficulty for older drivers entering and leaving near a busy intersection.

The Kroger building, which sits on a 10-acre site, offers an opportunity to re-purpose an existing structure that has more than 66,000 square feet of space and room for a partial mezzanine. The building now has windows only in the front, but windows could be added to the other three sides and skylights could be installed, Gallow said.

There is parking, but there is no direct pedestrian access between the parking lot and the building without crossing two lanes of shopping center traffic.

A drawback could be the location, Gallow said. Beaumont Centre is outside New Circle Road in an area where the concentration of seniors is sparse. The perception by seniors might be that the center is remote from where they live, he said, and "perception is important." Beaumont is 4 miles from the current senior center.

Councilwoman Diane Lawless indicated that she was not enthusiastic about Beaumont, saying it is "on the far edge of the city and not centrally located."

But councilman Harry Clarke said it might be a good spot because there are 10 restaurants nearby, as well as a grocery store and a liquor store. Clarke represents the Beaumont area.

Council members George Myers and Kevin Stinnett asked the consultants to look at the Continental Inn site again, saying it was large enough for an outdoor walking track and next door to a college, where senior citizens could take classes. The consultants will assess the Continental Inn property using the same criteria applied to the other sites, Mills said.

Beverly Fortune: (859) 231-3251.Twitter: @BFortune2010

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