TRAVERSE CITY — Bill and Linda Lawshe haven’t had a summer off in 30 years, so the recently retirees were pleased to learn they’ll be able to enjoy a remodeled city bayfront senior center.
Traverse City commissioners this week agreed to release $218,000 from a senior center building fund to begin a major remodel of the existing building on West Bay at the end of Barlow Street. The decision ends a years-old debate that included suggestions to sell the property and relocate the center, or tearing it down and replacing it with a multi-story building to consolidate multiple programs.
“I’m glad to hear they will remodel; it’s better than selling it,” said Bill Lawshe, who formerly owned Mr. Bill’s Shirt Co. and had just made his first visit to the facility. “Once you get rid of it, you will never get it back.”
A committee spent a year-plus exploring other locations and new building possibilities before members decided remodeling was the best option. Committee members asked to use building fund money that volunteers accumulated through years of chicken dinner fundraisers and one large donation. That money is meant to kick-start a fundraising campaign to meet the estimated $500,000 remodeling cost.
“It definitely needs some renovation and some upgrade,” said city Commissioner Barbara Budros. “This money was raised by private individuals wanting to see something bigger and better at that location for the seniors and we don’t have any business holding onto it.”
Commissioners agreed with conclusions made by the Senior Center Project committee and the Grand Traverse County Commission on Aging that a new, same-site building -- with an estimated $7 million to $9 million price tag -- wasn’t financially reachable.
The fundraising effort has been ongoing for years, but managed to pull together just a fraction of an initial $5 million goal.
A larger building on the site doesn’t make sense because of physical constraints and lack of parking, said Max Binkley, who led the Senior Center Project committee.
“People are saying we need to add more room down there, but if it’s properly configured I think it will work,” Binkley said.
The remodeling project will replace electrical and plumbing systems; remove the large, blocked-off fire place; update and expand the kitchen; reconfigure the office and programming space; and add new surface treatments both inside and out. The city also could slightly extend the center to the west, but will wait until an architect is hired to determine the feasibility of any expansion.
Rick and Cindy Sach of Grawn said a new building would be nice, but they agree the city and county, which run senior programs at the center, need to do what makes the most economic sense.
“I’d hate to see them get rid of this center here because the site is so beautiful,” Rick Sack said as he gazed at the bay. “It doesn’t get any better than this.”