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Plans for new Senior Center move forward

A project years in the making moved one step closer to fruition last week as members of the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved a design plan for a new senior center.
The unanimous vote during a called BMA meeting on Nov. 26 moves forward the bid process for the construction of the new facility at the corner of East Main Street and Longview Drive.
“This is a two-year process of design that has led us to this point,” Mayor Kelly Wolfe said. “But it’s probably like a 20-year trek that’s brought us to the design of a new senior center.”
The current senior center is located in a renovated RV sales building on Persimmon Ridge Road. It has been overcrowded for years, according to town leaders.
Prior to casting their votes last week, BMA members heard from C.W. Parker, of Ken Ross Architects. Parker detailed design plans for the new center and answered a handful of questions from the board.
An entrance on Main Street and another on Longview Drive, will offer two options for traffic coming and going from the center.
The second floor of the two-level facility will boast most of the activity while a basement level is set to offer exercise space and room for expansion in the future.
Seniors will enter the center through the main entrance, which is located on the second level in the rear of the building, next to the parking lot.
The second level is a total of 15,402 square feet of finished space.
A reception area, parlor for sitting and an elevator are all located just inside the vestibule entrance.
A “giant” arts and crafts room as well as a “very large” dining room are included on the main level, Parker said. Both can utilize partitions to divide the room into different sections when needed, he added. The dining room, he said, is considered “multi-use.”
“That area will be able to host dances, large meetings, large meals,” Parker explained.
Although the construction project includes plans for a commercial kitchen, funds are not currently allocated for commercial equipment. Still, Parker said it was wise to include a commercial hood in the design of the kitchen so that if the funds do become available, it will be ready.
Administrative offices and a general classroom are also located on the second level.
The project is being bid in two different phases, essentially one for each level.
In addition to including all the work for the main level, the initial bid will also include basic site work and construction of the entire building exterior.
“We wanted to do the building so it’s as little maintenance as possible to the exterior. It is built to be a commercial building. It’s going to last a long time for the Town of Jonesborough,” Parker said. “We want the building to feel residential and to blend with and complement the neighborhood. We didn’t want to go overboard, but we wanted to have just enough.”
Work included in the first bid is estimated to cost $2.1 million.
“Our estimating ability has been very good,” Parker said. “But remember, we went through several years where bids were coming in very low. We are in a period where it’s going back up.”
Still, Parker expects there will be a significant number of bids for the project, which will help drive down the cost.
“We will have interest from all over. Once we pass the $1-1.5 million mark, we are having bidders from Knoxville, North Carolina, Chattanooga,” he said. “People want to work. And we encourage them to sharpen their pencils and look closely, because a lot of people will show interest.”
How much work is done on the lower level of the building will depend greatly on the cost of the work included in the first bid.
The second bid, which focuses solely on the lower level of the center, will include a concrete slab, finishes, exercise equipment, locker rooms and large exercise areas, including a dance studio.
The town plans to use $500,000 in funding from Washington County, which commissioners voted earlier this year to give to the project.
With everything completed from both bids, the new facility would be somewhere around 25,000 square feet.
The current senior center is between 5,000-6,000 square feet, Parker said.
Designs leave some additional space in the lower level unfinished, offering the town the opportunity to expand the facility in the future.
“This does give us flexibility as the center keeps developing,” Parker said. “By the time this one opens, it will probably be full and you’ll be ready to expand quickly as the funds allow.”