Reading, MA — The Reading Center for Active Living Committee (ReCALC) met jointly with the Council on Aging on Tuesday to review what Town Manager Fidel Maltez referred to as a “presentation as to what could happen” for a potential senior center located in the former Walgreens building on Harnden Street.
Gienapp Architects Senior Project Manager Leno Filippi presented conceptual drawings that he suggested “maximize the potential” of the “fascinating location.” He continued to suggest that use of the site for a senior center could “provide a lot of vitality” for the area.
Filippi proposes salvaging the existing shell, the stairway, and the elevator of the building while remodeling the entire first floor. He suggested replacement of the roof, the doors, and the windows, inserting additional windows on the Main Street side of the building to give it an active look from the outside. The first floor would have an open concept feel and would include lounges, a craft room, a kitchen, administrative offices, and would be highlighted by a large central function space that would open to an outdoor patio.
Filippi also proposes an expansion of the second floor with exercise rooms, classrooms, offices for nurses and other services, additional lounges, and a second multipurpose space that would open onto an outdoor terrace. The proposal would provide 3.5 times the amount of program space that is currently available in the Pleasant Street Center.
In order to accommodate parking needs, Filippi suggests a two-level parking garage behind the building which would provide seventy-three parking spaces. In order to accomplish this, the drive-through at the adjacent bank would need to be taken over by the town. There is also planned space on Harnden Street for a van drop-off area. Karen Fotino expressed concern over the concept if the bank does not agree. “If we can’t have adequate parking, it’s going to be a problem,” Fotino stated. John Parsons added that a previous idea that had no expansion of the second floor of the Harnden Street building and continued use of the Pleasant Street Center in a campus concept could also alleviate parking concerns.
Filippi concluded by reporting that costs for the project, including finishing details such as furniture, could cost between $25.4 million and $34.8 million, not including the cost to acquire the property. Select Board chair Mark Dockser shared that the Select Board had recently voted to negotiate with the property owner and that the negotiations were ongoing.
Nancy Ziemlek responded that she loved the conceptual design indicating that the site provides “a perfect-sized senior center.” However, she also suggested that the building might need more storage. John Sasso agreed regarding storage and asked about the kitchen’s proposed size. Nora Bucko questioned the wisdom of maintaining the current elevator in the back corner of the building, which would be a distance from the entrances. Marilyn Shapeleigh agreed, reminding the group that though the idea is to create a facility the whole community can use, “senior needs come first.”
Dockser added that if an agreement can be reached with the property owner, a potential timeline for the project could provide detailed plans by the end of the summer, a special town meeting in September, with a possible community vote in November. Dockser quickly reminded the group that this timeline represented a best-case scenario.
Both committees adjourned at 8:00 pm.