Seeking a Senior Center solution

The Traverse City Senior Center Network.

TRAVERSE CITY — A roomful of people at the Traverse City Senior Center left posters speckled with blue dots, each sticker a marker of what they want to see in the building’s long-sought replacement.

Around 60 people came to the first of two input sessions Wednesday, where Ray Kendra of Environment Architects and Dave Hammel of Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture presented conceptual possibilities for the building. They sought input on spaces the structure should include to host Grand Traverse County Senior Center Network programming, its exterior design and how it should be laid out on the city park where it currently sits.

Kendra and Hammel presented room ideas including multipurpose classrooms, a lounge with a library and event spaces that could serve a number of roles, including dancing events — “Line dancing,” one audience member shouted, drawing a cheer from another.

Attendees could vote on one of four general site plans, and pick from an array of architectural styles.

A few items will be included without debate, like the shuffleboard courts, Kendra said.

Hammel said he and Kendra want everyone’s opinion on where their priorities should lie in designing a new senior center.

Designers will compile what they hear, then draw up site and floor plans, Kendra said.

“The biggest idea as we’re presenting options is we’re at that 30,000-foot elevation, then we’re going to start zooming down to more detail,” he said.

Audience members asked questions like how designers will prioritize and whether the limiting factor is space or money — both, Kendra replied — and why not buy an empty lot across the street for parking — not in the project scope, Kendra said.

Pat Pierce, a former senior center employee, said she liked that each possible layout included views of Lake Michigan. She also liked that one site plan would leave the current building standing while the new one’s under construction.

Hettie Molvang said afterward she wants to see a building that’s accessible, pleasant, economical and easy to maintain.

“And perhaps one that can earn its keep, which means we can use it for events,” she said.

Molvang, facilitator for Parkinsons Network North, said fundraising to build the center will be a big task and had some advice for the audience: show up when it’s time to raise money, too.

Wednesday’s meetings were part of a roughly 20-year process to replace the aging senior center, a repurposed pavilion at Barlow and East Front streets. Traverse City and Grand Traverse County officials in September agreed to work together after users urged as much. The city still would own the land and building, while the county Senior Center Network would continue to run programming there.

Those who couldn’t make Wednesday’s meetings can come by next week to weigh in, county Senior Centers Network Manager Lori Wells said. She expects to have floor and site plans by Nov. 11 — city and county officials should, too.


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