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.