By SHERIDAN CYR
A recent tour of the new Calendar House Senior Center showed that the construction project is coming along smoothly. The facility remains on track for an opening in early March 2018, and Calendar House executive director Robert Verderame said that members “can’t wait to get in.”
The new building, stretching 300 feet from one end to the other, will be able to accommodate all of the Calendar House’s many programs and services with ease. It will have two technology rooms, a fitness room, a ballet room, a large game room for pool and ping pong tables, a large cafeteria, a number of classrooms, offices, and more.
Construction broke ground in April, and the project has come a long way since then. The decision to build a new facility came through the Town Council. Verderame was preparing to go through yet another fixer-upper project at the original facility, when the Town Council spoke up and said it was time for a whole new building.
Paul Champagne, chair of the Calendar House Building Committee, explained that the project was budgeted at about $9.4 million and thus had to go to referendum, where it passed. They then got a $5 million grant from the state, saving the town a significant amount of money.
“Our legislatures were able to secure a sizeable grant, so we only have about $4.4 million to pay back,” said Champagne. “That’s less than half of what we expected going in.”
Champagne said he was extremely proud of the building committee, which consists of a developer, a planner, an HVAC contractor, a member of the senior citizens commission, a water and heating plumber and Acting Town Manager Mark Sciota.
“This is a great recipe for a building committee,” Champagne said. The committee met on several occasions and listened to the wants and wishes of the Calendar House staff members.
Membership to the Calendar House is free of charge, so long as the individual is age 55 and above, or has a disability. Currently there are about 5,000 members total and around 250 visiting the building on an average day. Verderame estimates that once the new building is opened, that number will increase to up to 400 members on any given day.
Verderame said the increased space is much needed. In the game room, pool players often accidentally bump nearby players while trying to make their move. The cafeteria area was sharing half its space to an exercise area. Many spaces were problematic for members with wheelchairs or walkers.
“We were running into issues with the current building,” said Verderame. He added that the additional space has allowed the senior center to introduce additional activities and programs for members to enjoy.
Ricardo Anderson, project superintendent, said the main projects left to complete are flooring, mill work and painting. Once the new building is open and operating, the deconstruction of the old building will take place. The whole thing will be taken down, cleared, and paved over into an extension of the existing parking lot.
Anderson estimated the deconstruction and paving will be complete by the end of August 2018.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.