Major renovation planned for Avenidas senior center

Proposed project would have fitness rooms, tech center and three-story wing

The Avenidas senior center unveiled plans for a modern, technologically advanced senior center Wednesday that would include amenities and programming to accommodate Palo Alto's booming senior population. The proposal calls for a new 11,000-square-foot, three-story wing and a remodel of the existing historic building on Bryant Street.

The $18 million expansion would bring the center's total square footage to 26,000.

With glass windows that look out on the adjacent Cogswell Plaza and a full-service facility to address senior health and fitness, the new Avenidas would be positioned to serve the needs of baby boomers and future generations, officials said at a community meeting Wednesday.

Adults age 55 and older currently account for more than one-third of Palo Alto's population. The percentage is expected to rise to 50 percent by 2030, said Bruce Heister, Avenidas board chair. The current Avenidas facilities are operating at capacity. Last year, Avenidas served more than 7,000 people and hosted 233 classes.

The new center would keep Avenidas relevant, providing amenities that baby boomers expect, Heister said. It would include an "aging and technology" room where researchers and entrepreneurs would work with seniors to create new senior-friendly products; additional multipurpose rooms for more programs; and a kitchen for nutrition classes.

The technology room would expand on the existing computer learning center and would introduce gadgets to help seniors age in place in their homes.

"When we reopen, we want the center to be a showcase for age-friendly design," Avenidas Capital Project Manager Lisa Hendrickson said. Restrooms could have different kinds of faucets for people to try, for example, and the building will have "hearing loops" to boost sound for people with hearing aids, a cutting-edge technology, she said.

The wing's open, airy design would have flexible multipurpose rooms on the second floor, including a 5,000-square-foot fitness room and wellness center. The wellness center would offer expanded services such as podiatry and cooking classes for seniors with special dietary needs, Hendrickson said. Another fitness center would be on the third floor.

Under the current plan, the expansion would be funded with $5 million from the City of Palo Alto, which owns the building and private donations.

If all goes as planned, the renovation would break ground in mid-2016.

The proposal will go before the Palo Alto Historic Resources Board for preliminary review on Thursday, July 23. Keeping the existing historic 1927 Birge Clark structure at 450 Bryant St. is a priority, Avenidas officials said. The Spanish-style building was the city's former police and fire station.

Although the building's exterior retains its historic elements, the interior was extensively remodeled years ago and does not have historic significance, said Kevin Jones, a partner with architects Kenneth Rodrigues & Partners.

The new wing at the rear of the building would replace the existing dining room, which is part of a 1970s addition. Two floors would be added above. The new ground-floor dining room would include a small outdoor dining patio. An existing shed from the late 1920s, which is currently used as a conference room, would remain and house the Avenidas Villages offices, Jones said.

The wing would rise to 41 feet -- an additional 5 feet above the two-story historic building. The addition would not take any space from the park or the adjacent parking lot, Jones said, but it would encroach on an existing courtyard that is part of the Avenidas property.

The new structure would have an ADA-compliant elevator going up three floors, while an existing two-story elevator in the historic building would be upgraded, Jones said.

The historic building would be seismically upgraded and would have mechanical, electrical and plumbing system upgrades, he said. Most of the administrative services would be moved to the second story of the historic building, making more space for multipurpose rooms.

Avenidas officials acknowledged that the plan would not add any parking spaces to the current allotment of 27 that Avenidas receives from the city. But there are plans to prevent traffic and parking problems, Hendrickson said (see sidebar). In addition to shuttles, bike racks could be installed in front of the building on Bryant. And Avenidas is looking for ways to add tricycle parking and spaces for scooters. Hendrickson said they also want to add several bikes for seniors to try as part of the technology program.

Keeping Avenidas downtown is important because many amenities useful to seniors are there, including public transportation, medical care, parks and shopping, she said.

Though Avenidas is a nonprofit, its property belongs to the city.

After the project is reviewed by the Historic Resources Board, it must also be approved by the Architectural Review Board and City Council.

Related content:

Avenidas plan excludes more parking

We can't do it without you.
Support local journalism.


18 people like this
Posted by John
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 17, 2015 at 12:31 pm

As pointed out in the letter attached to the "Related content" document the clients of Avenidas probably need adjacent parking more than the Avenidas staff does. I would like to see firm plans for client parking, not just "We could ......"

4 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 18, 2015 at 11:14 am

Marie is a registered user.

As a member of Avenidas, I would also like to see additional dedicated parking, as the current parking is frequently full. However, as a citizen of Palo Alto. I would also like to see the city build a new parking garage to increase the actual amount of parking, as one part of a solution to the overall parking deficit. No more development, even to benefit me, should be allowed without adding at least the additional parking generated by the development.

I also would like to see the addition be consistent with the existing Spanish style architecture. No more boxes, that do not blend with existing architecture.

6 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 18, 2015 at 12:25 pm

The view of the west wall shows a big blank. An insult to Birge Clark. Another monstrosity of the box school of architecture. And paying money to Palo Alto in lieu of enough parking spaces adds to the insult. Avenidas should try again.

8 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 18, 2015 at 12:48 pm

Suitably ugly

2 people like this
Posted by Ruth Hammett
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 1, 2017 at 7:31 pm

How about a class for members in general in accessing Avenidas' and other comminity services - some examples of topics:
Finding various outdoor activities.
Obtaining on-call help teaching elderly in using cell and mobile phones.
Teaching online shopping for home delivery of groceries.
Obtaining assessment of homes for falling hazards.
Teaching the procedure on how to book a volunteer driver.
How to find folks for help with routine household tasks, bedmaking, laundry, cooking, dressing, driving, secretarial help and pill reminding.

2 people like this
Posted by Developers rule
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 3, 2017 at 11:35 am

The Board of Avenidas is dominated by development interests, real estate people and money lenders. Even development advocates Liz Kniss and Larry Klein.
Have they ever met a development they didn't support?
Web Link
Many of these people or their associates will make millions on this project.
Unfortunately, that's what its all about.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Be the first to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

Peek inside the fine-dining Selby's, opening in Redwood City this summer
By Elena Kadvany | 6 comments | 4,442 views

If you do nothing else, do These Three Things
By Sherry Listgarten | 13 comments | 1,353 views

Homestead Faire at Hidden Villa 4/27
By Laura Stec | 7 comments | 1,268 views

Premarital and Couples: "You're Not Listening to Me!" may mean "I don't feel heard."
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 1,155 views

All those things our city does – and doesn’t -- do
By Diana Diamond | 7 comments | 1,048 views


Vote now!

It's time once again to cast your vote for the best places to eat, drink, shop and spend time in Palo Alto. Voting is open now through May 27. Watch for the results of our 2019 Best Of contest on Friday, July 19.