TRAVERSE CITY — The first step toward determining the design for a new senior center is underway.

Three firms aiming to provide architect services were interviewed Friday by Traverse City and Grand Traverse County officials.

County Parks and Recreation Director Kris Erickson said offers were made by Environment Architects, of Traverse City; jointly by Cornwell Architects and Lifespan Design Studios, of Traverse City and Loveland, Ohio, respectfully; and jointly Buday and Kruzel Architects, of Harbor Springs, and WIlliams Architects, of Itasca, Ill.

The Traverse City and Grand Traverse County commissions in September voted to support constructing a new senior center in the same location as the current building. The existing building is a former pavilion that was converted into an enclosed event space, a kitchen and office.

The city still would own and maintain a new building and the surrounding parkland, while the county Senior Center Network would provide services inside, as is the current arrangement, said city Manager Marty Colburn.

Officials now will be doing some background work, including asking previous clients about their experiences with the firms, Colburn said.

They don’t know when a firm will be selected because they want to choose the best one without needing to rush, he said. There also isn’t an estimated start date for construction — design work first must be completed, Colburn added.

The architect’s job is to determine the design — based on community input — which will determine the square footage, which will determine the cost, said Lori Wells, Senior Center Network manager.

Once an architect is selected, input from stakeholders — such as current senior center users, staff, groups who utilize the facility and the general public — will be sought to determine what features are of most interest, she said.

That process will take a few months, Wells said. At least two public meetings are planned in addition to focus groups and a community survey, she said.

“We definitely want the seniors to play an active role in deciding what’s important in a new building,” Wells said.

Previous estimates for a structure roughly double the size of the existing building were $4-6 million. Wells said those numbers are old and outdated, especially since they don’t yet know how large the building will be.

Cornwell Architects has done drawings and estimates for a proposed replacement before, Colburn said.

Replacing the building has been under consideration in fits and starts for several years, and users tired of waiting have cajoled both city and county commissioners to act sooner rather than later. Both governments agreed to partner to find a path forward.

"That's all part of the process that we're working through," Colburn said.

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