The design and feedback process for the new senior center is underway after years of debate and planning.
The Norman City Council approved a contract with FSB Define Design Deliver and Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture in late August. And last week, the Senior Center Ad Hoc Committee, created in July, held its first meeting with designers and architects.
“It’s really important to me, as a No. one goal, that this center be very inclusive for not only for younger seniors, but for 50 years and up,” Gale Hobson, chair of the ad hoc committee, said at Wednesday's meeting.
The new senior center will be at Reeves Park at the corner of Jenkins and Constitution and is a Norman Forward project. Norman Forward is a citizen-initiated proposal to fund quality of life project such as parks and libraries. Norman voters approved the temporary 1/2 percent sales tax in 2015.
The senior center, however, is the only Norman Forward project that didn't have earmarked funds. The City Council in May redirected $7.6 million in savings from the Griffin Park project to the new senior center.
Jud Foster, director for Norman Parks and Recreation, said the estimated construction budget is $6 million and $1.6 million of the total project cost will go towards design and soft costs such as furniture. Once the design and feedback process is complete, the contract will be bid out and construction will begin.
“It’s not going to be a $15 million project, but it is going to be something to be proud of, and it’s something that could be added to over the years,” Foster said.
Betty Maffucci, Norman resident, said they are going to be limited by the $6 million price tag. She said if they want a top of the line facility, they need to think about they want down the road and not how much they can save now.
Tammy Vaughn, ad hoc member and director of Aging Services, said when the committee is talking about outcomes of the project, they should be thinking about what they want for the community and not what the rooms will look like.
“It really has nothing to do with the meals or what they get. For a lot of people it’s just the social interaction,” Vaughn said. “Whatever we put in this building, I think the best outcome would be to be socially inclusive.”
Hobson said once the center is established she would also like to look into partnering with hospitals and clinics. With seniors, she said, it’s important to include outside care with pharmacies, vaccinations and screenings. It would be easier for seniors if it call all be in one place, she said.
“I think another thing that’s important is to have a flexible design so we can modify it today to have game night and then do something else in the day,” said Bill Terry, ad hoc committee member.
The committee is looking at doing a three-week online survey to get a feel of what residents want included in the center. It’s also looking at having paper surveys to hand out or include in water bills.
Terry said in the survey they need to also get a sense of what people are prepared to pay as a monthly cost. Their goal with outreach has to be to get to those residents and organizations that feel left out of the process and get them engaged, he said.
One of Vaughn’s goals was also reaching out to residents in rural Norman, because she said some rural residents don’t see this as their project.
Norman resident Kim Corey attended Wednesday’s meeting and said she has lived in east Norman past 35 years, and there aren’t many places to convene. She said the committee should connect with the Little Axe Community Center for input.
There are several more ad hoc committee and public meetings planned. The ad hoc committee will have its first workshop Sept. 17 and the first public meeting is slated for Sept. 18.