With white hard hats on, Senior Center staff, elected officials and community members broke ground on the new SCV Senior Center Wednesday to replace an aging center which first opened nearly four decades ago.
About 200 attendees gathered on Golden Valley Road to kick off construction on the $11.4 million building that will replace the existing structure on Market Street in Newhall.
“We’re here to break some ground, break some dirt and we’re also here to turn a page in our history,” SCV Senior Center Executive Director Kevin MacDonald said. “This new venue gives us the opportunity for a fresh start and really to open our eyes to the many possibilities that are before us.”
The contractor for the project will be selected next week and full-fledged construction will start around Thanksgiving. Doors are expected to open at the new center in September or October of next year.
The two-story building will be 30,000 square feet, triple the size of the current center. Donations are still being accepted to meet the fundraising goal.
To equip seniors with all-encompassing services, the new center will feature assistance in career development, information technology, finances, wellness and senior rights.
“We’re also building a place of acceptance and comfort, a place of love and a place where people can gather to just to enjoy life,” MacDonald said.
An estimated 120,000 meals will be served at the new center each year and over 50,000 participants will take part in recreational and wellness activities, according to MacDonald.
The center will house a banquet hall, a fireplace lounge and library, six multi-purpose rooms, a fitness center, a dance studio and an outdoor cabana.
Center staff said they are still open to suggestions in the coming months for what community members would like to see in the new center.
More than 9,600 seniors are projected to be in the Santa Clarita Valley within the next four years, the total number of seniors is expected to rise to 42,000 by 2022, according to Senior Center Board Member Emeritus Don Kimball.
“It’s really been a challenge for our existing location on Market Street to meet the needs of our growing senior population,” Kimball said. “We all knew the only real solution going forward was going to be a new center.”
The new center meets the key needs the center identified for a new building, including being on a large piece of land, being relatively affordable and being centrally-located in the valley, Kimball said.
Providing this new location will facilitate a community for seniors to enjoy one another’s company, according to Board President Peggy Rasmussen, who served as a co-chair for the capital campaign to fundraise for the center.
“This is a building that we would like to house a senior community,” Rasmussen said. “That is exactly what seniors do. We migrate towards each other.”
When the project was first being conceptualized, the city council donated $3 million to its construction. At Tuesday’s council meeting the day prior to the ground breaking, the council approved an additional $500,000 to help bridge a $1 million gap in funding.
“For us on the council, helping support and contributing in all the work that is going on and all the partnerships we have with the senior center, that is exactly what we were elected to do,” Mayor Cameron Smyth said. “That is exactly what a local government is for.”
Sharing feelings of being “humbled, proud and excited,” Assemblyman Dante Acosta said he was happy to have previously served on the city council who approved funding for the new center.
“I’m so proud that I live in a community that took the time, the effort, the money to make this kind of commitment to build this center,” Acosta said.
Long-time Senior Center volunteer David Garetto-Barnett said he has continued to spend his time there because of the sense of belonging it facilitates. He looks forward to seeing how the new center does this for future seniors and volunteers.
“That energy was so contagious,” Garetto-Barnett said. “It’s the same energy that keeps the clients coming back.”