A new, state-of-the-art enrichment center for older adults in downtown Palo Alto opens its doors to the public Monday, April 1.
The 22,000-square-foot center, called [email protected], combines the senior service agency's carefully renovated historic home in Palo Alto's former police headquarters with a newly constructed contemporary section, representing a doubling of the previous space. Though separate in structure and design features, the old and new buildings share plumbing and heating systems and are seamlessly connected by a corridor.
The additional space will support an abundance of new programming for seniors that was in high demand but simply not possible to accommodate in the old building, said Avenidas CEO Amy Andonian. The agency also will continue to offer some programs at Cubberley Community Center, where it's been housed during the 18-month construction and renovation of the downtown site.
"We're going to be able to really focus on health and wellness," Andonian said. "We'll have the opportunity to do more evidence-based programs in partnership with groups like Stanford, Palo Alto Medical Foundation and El Camino Hospital. We want to be a community hub where people can come to access any program or service or resource to age successfully."
For yoga and Pilates buffs, a soft floor with a walnut finish in the new fitness studio replaces the concrete one where classes previously were held in the old building. The new center has dedicated spaces for art classes, technology, reading, discussion groups, game playing — even separate rooms for massage and podiatry consultations.
There's also office space available for visiting organizations that provide legal, financial, housing and health insurance counseling to seniors, such as Senior Adult Legal Assistance and Health Insurance Counseling & Advocacy Program.
For its new, corner room dedicated to technology, Avenidas will contract with the New York City-based nonprofit Senior Planet, which describes itself as "celebrat(ing) aging by sharing information and resources that support aging with attitude and helps people who were born long before the digital revolution to stay engaged and active by bringing a digital-technology focus to a range of topics — among them news, health, sex and dating, art and design, senior style, travel and entertainment."
A public cafe — including a separate entrance facing Bryant Street — will be managed by the firm Catered Too!, which manages cafes in the Computer History Museum and the San Jose Museum of Art. It will open at 6:30 a.m. — in hopes of attracting younger newcomers who may work in nearby buildings — and will remain open until 3:30 p.m. The cafe space also will be used for nutrition and cooking programming, Andonian said.
The $20-million construction and renovation project was guided by strict rules governing the historic preservation of the 1927 Police Court building, designed by noted architect Birge Clark. While the interior was gutted, all windows, doors and the masonry shell and roof had to remain intact, said Camille Kennedy, Avenidas's vice president for strategic partnerships.
"If you're walking along Bryant and come to Avenidas, you might not know that anything has changed because, from the exterior, nothing has changed," Kennedy said. "That's part of the charm and the challenge."
Differences between the old and new sections are striking and intentional, Andonian said, such as the original cast-iron casement windows in the Birge Clark building in contrast to the soaring glass atrium, floor-to-ceiling windows and outdoor decks of various stone surfaces on the new side.
Design work was done by architect Kevin Jones of Mountain View-based KRP Architects and Berkeley-based architect and designer Susanne Stadler, whose age-friendly design firm aims to "make users feel strong and engaged."
"One thing we really wanted to do was create a space that was modern, intentionally designed as age-friendly and that had some whimsical elements to it," Kennedy said. "The building is fun and also respects the community we're here to serve. Although we see ourselves as building for everyone in the community, we also wanted the building to be geared toward those who come take classes here.
"We want people to feel like not only is this a fun place, but it doesn't feel old."
Nearly half of the $20-million budget came from just two sources: $5 million from the city of Palo Alto, which still owns the Birge Clark building, and $4 million in donations from Cindi and Curtis Priem, a co-founder of NVIDIA. Other major donors included the Rena A Estes Trust, the Floyd Family Foundation, Jill Freidenrich, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and Bill Reller. Several anonymous donors also provided gifts of $1 million or more, Andonian said.
An opening gala was held for friends and donors Saturday, Feb. 23, featuring a talk by Brooklyn-based anti-ageism author Ashton Applewhite. The public is invited to preview the new building in an open house scheduled for March 9. Full programming will begin at the new center, as well as at the Cubberley location, on Monday, April 1.
The senior services agency Avenidas will continue some of its programs in the I Building of Cubberley Community Center, which served as its headquarters for 18 months during the construction and renovation of the Avenidas downtown headquarters.
The public is invited to a free open house Saturday, March 23, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to preview programs that will be offered at newly named [email protected] center.
Programs will include bridge, tax advising, jewelry making, vocal training, dance fitness, Avenidas Blooms — which recycles, rearranges and distributes floral arrangements to those in need — and a new culture club designed to provide classes and activities for a culturally diverse population, initially focusing on Mandarin speakers. The culture club will offer Tai chi, brush painting, pingpong and Mahjong.
[email protected] open house
The public is invited to a Saturday, March 9 open house to preview the renovated and expanded three-story downtown space of the senior services agency Avenidas. Doors will open for Avenidas members only from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. The general public will be welcomed from noon to 2 p.m.
The center includes a cafe, a wellness area with an exercise studio, an art studio and other rooms for reading, lounging, game-playing, social work offices and more. Some instructors will be on hand for the many classes offered at the Bryant Street center in art, books, exercise and wellness, languages, drama, bridge, dance, meditation, music, wine appreciation and more.
Activities and classes officially begin in the new center — which has been under construction and renovation for the past 18 months — on Monday, April 1.