City chooses former medical building site as the spot for new Meriden senior center

The committee tasked with making a recommendation about moving the Meriden senior center has made a decision, and it’s a good one: The former medical office building site at 116 Cook Ave, a 5.6-acre site that also happens to be owned by the city. For a quarter century the location has not served the interests of the city or its residents, and giving it a purpose now simply makes a lot of sense. The City Council has given its approval.

Bruce Fontanella, a city councilor who is chairman of the Senior Center Review Commission, listed the good reasons in a recent statement in which he noted the site’s central location. “It also will fit into any future development in that area,” he said. “And we also already own the land, and we’re going to have demo(lition) of the property at the state’s cost, hopefully.”

The committee could have recommended not moving the senior center at all, but that did not seem likely. The senior center at 22 W. Main St. was noted for its drawbacks, which included lack of room and lack of sufficient parking. So the choice had really come down to the Cook Ave. site or a location on Westfield Road. The Westfield site had been a rehab facility and convalescent home, and had been mostly idle. Two strikes against that spot was that it is not centrally located and not owned by the city, which meant it would cost more money if taken off the tax rolls.

As one of the committee members noted, the selection of the Cook Avenue site means moving the senior center a few blocks as opposed to “approximately two miles out of town.”

The project, which also entails moving city health and human services, has a long way to go, but the committee sent it off to a good start with its recommendation. As the Record-Journal reported, the total cost is expected to be $48 million. Design firm EDM Studios, said the R-J, “determined that everyone who uses the facility universally wanted: a larger parking lot with safe pedestrian access, easier means of transportation, a safer dropoff/entry to the building, a location closer to restaurants and other activities, and a relaxing outdoor environment.”

Bringing those amenities into service for Meriden seniors is a great effort but one worth pursuing. With the council’s approval, the next significant step is the formation of a building committee. Thanks to the committee that made the selection, the project now has a solid foundation.



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