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Senior services nonprofit Avenidas debuts new center

Downtown's modernized senior hub opens with tech center, classrooms, wellness areas, public cafe

Outside Avenidas' remodeled building, which kept the original architecture of the historic Birge Clark building but added on an additional 11,000-square-foot Wellness Center. Photo by Veronica Weber.

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 Avenidas@450Bryant, 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.

Avenidas@Cubberley

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 Avenidas@Cubberley 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.

Avenidas@450Bryant 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.

Avenidas@450Bryant is one of two "enrichment centers" operated by Avenidas. The other is Avenidas@Cubberley. The agency also operates Avenidas@RoseKleiner, an adult day care center in Mountain View.

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About the video: Take a tour of the newly renovated Avenidas building including the brand new three-story Wellness Center.

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Comments

2 people like this
Posted by Miriam Palm
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 1, 2019 at 9:49 am

Miriam Palm is a registered user.

Looks great, can't wait to see it in person when it opens.


Like this comment
Posted by Mayfield Child
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Mar 2, 2019 at 11:46 am

Left out of the above article: I would like to mention that the building at 450 Bryant was not only used by the Palo Alto Police Department but was used also at the same time by the Palo Alto Fire Department before Avenidas. Lovely building, glad it has been saved for historical value.


8 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 2, 2019 at 6:21 pm

Marie is a registered user.

So sad that they were not a able to continue to partner with La Comida. I still don't understand those choices. $20M for a fancy new building, no additional parking, and reduced services for low income seniors.


2 people like this
Posted by Lynn
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 4, 2019 at 11:42 am

What I learned on a recent tour of the space was that to renovate its historic building, Avenidas was required to build a fire safety stairwell, an ADA-compliant elevator, and multiple bathrooms. As you can imagine, these enhancements took up a lot of space, which cut into the dining room, so that's when the La Comida Board of Directors decided to sub-lease an alternate location.

The upside from all this is that now, along with the new Avenidas Firestation Cafe, seniors will have more dining options than before!

The new building will also allow for Avenidas to offer even more programming for all seniors regardless of their income level. The new building, instead of feeling "fancy," feels warm and welcoming, and as a local senior, I can't wait for the doors to open on April 1st!


3 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 4, 2019 at 12:16 pm

Marie is a registered user.

La Comida did not decide to leave - they were told their space would be drastically reduced and were pushed out, despite many pleas from the public to keep them at the city-owned site. I also do not believe that the dining room could not have been accommodated. It was a definite decision on Avenidas part to shrink its dining area, which they knew meant it would could not accommodate La Comida.

And, as with much of the new Avenidas programming, I expect the new cafe to have market prices and not be accessible to low income seniors.

It is very sad how the mission of Avenidas has changed in recent years.


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