The senior services agency Avenidas last month unveiled a revised expansion plan for its downtown Palo Alto senior center that officials said incorporates feedback from community members and city agencies they received on a July 2015 proposal.
The revised plan, like the earlier one, would increase Avenidas's downtown operations from 18,400 square feet to 26,500 square feet and include a new three-story, technologically advanced building with amenities and programming to accommodate Palo Alto's booming senior population.
This time around, however, the style of the addition is more in keeping with Avenidas's existing 1926 historic building at 450 Bryant St., which was designed by noted architect Birge Clark and first served as Palo Alto's police and fire station.
"Fundamentally, the community didn't embrace the contemporary style of the (first proposal)," said Lisa Hendrickson, the former president and CEO of Avenidas who is spearheading the $18 million renovation project. "They really wanted a look that related more closely to the Birge Clark building, and that's what this (revised) design is intended to do."
The addition has punched windows and a less contemporary use of glass, Hendrickson said.
"Our architect likes to say that it has a 'new set of clothes' now," she added.
Architect Kevin Jones said the new plan "allows for a distinction between the old and the new that isn't as severe as the previous one and has components to it that recall the style of the existing building, but perhaps in a more contemporary way."
The new design also includes first- and second-floor connectors between the Birge Clark building -- which would remain intact -- and the addition, which would be built behind it on the site of Avenidas's current 1970s-era dining room. The addition of the connectors between the old and the new buildings came from suggestions by member of the city's Architectural Review Board, Hendrickson said.
If the proposal is approved, construction could begin as early as fall 2017, said Avenidas officials who hope to temporarily relocate the agency to Cubberley Community Center during the 12- to 15-month-long project. The federally subsidized La Comida hot lunch program will be temporarily moved to the First United Methodist Church on Hamilton Avenue.
In a recent public meeting, seniors from Avenidas appeared receptive to the revisions but questioned Hendrickson and Jones about the availability of meeting space, lack of additional parking and the size of the new dining commons.
Given the growth of the La Comida hot-lunch program, one participant asked why the new design does not have expanded dining space. Hendrickson responded that planners have been struggling for the past three years with "trade-offs" in the new design. The lunch program will move to multiple seatings to accommodate the demand, Avenidas president and CEO Amy Andonian said.
Parking, said Jones, "has been one of the primary challenges of the project from its inception."
Planners explored creating more spaces in the Bryant Street parking structure across from Avenidas as well as in the parking lot behind Avenidas, accessible from Ramona Street, but neither of those worked out, he said.
"What we're going to do is pay into the city's parking program, which facilitates the future construction of parking, but also, on our side, increase shuttle services and other means of getting people to the site," he said.
Andonian said Avenidas has a new partnership with Lyft and is negotiating discounted rides for older adults, with Avenidas acting as the dispatcher.
Bicycle racks will be in front of the building on Bryant, and planners also are exploring bicycle lockers at the rear of the building, Jones said.
The renovated Avenidas will have many more flexible classroom and meeting spaces than the current building, Jones said, as well as a ground-floor dining area, a second-floor wellness center, a third-floor fitness center, and possibly a small theater in the basement. The plan also includes an outdoor courtyard and a third-level roof terrace.
"The modernization of the building and the expansion is going to significantly improve the experience for people, and we're going to be able to do more here for more people," Hendrickson said. But, she added, "We know this will not solve our capacity issues entirely."
The agency intends to find an additional site -- ideally in southern Palo Alto -- to provide services to Palo Alto's growing population of older adults, she said. Avenidas also runs the Rose Kleiner Center in Mountain View, a day program for seniors.
Both sites combined serve about 7,500 people annually, she said.
"We don't know how many we'll serve in the future, but today older adults age 55-plus already make up one-third of the Palo Alto population, and this segment throughout the mid-Peninsula will continue to grow for another 20 years, reaching almost 50 percent of the population."
• Visit our Storify page for a collection of news articles, resources and other information for Palo Alto seniors.