Hundreds of community members joined elected officials Wednesday morning in cutting the ribbon to the highly anticipated, new Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center.
“The new center is officially open, so let’s hear it,” said Cecil Bernstein, 91, who has worked as a volunteer for the organization for more than eight years and officiated the ribbon-cutting for the opening dedication ceremony.
The just-completed 30,000-square-foot building, at 27180 Golden Valley Road in Canyon Country, opened its doors to the public for the first time under a new name: Bella Vida.
“We are not only introducing you to a magnificent building but to a new name called ‘Bella Vida,’ (which translates to) the beautiful life,” said Peggy Rasmussen, one of the project’s lead organizers and president of the board of directors for the SCV Committee on Aging, which oversees the center. She shared her vision for the project and the growing need for services for older residents.
“Life is beautiful, and you need to stop sometimes and smell the roses. That’s what we do at the Senior Center a lot. This is a beautiful space we can share with the community and the seniors.”
And that’s exactly what people did Wednesday. From touring all the new rooms to relaxing on the outdoor cabana and reading the dedication wall, attendees were seen laughing, cheering and hugging all throughout the new center.
Among them were Valencia residents Anne Boyle and Judy Allen, who, together, have attended the Senior Center on Market Street for 15 years. “Even though this location is farther from home it’s worth the drive,” Boyle said. “We go to the crafter class, but the rooms are too small for 30 people. Now we’ll be able to get everyone in. We’re so excited.”
Arts and crafts are only part of what Bella Vida will offer. The new center includes a fitness and dance studio, six multipurpose rooms, a library and a kitchen designed to prepare 500 meals daily.
But it wasn’t an easy feat. Rasmussen and Kevin MacDonald, executive director of the center, shared what it took and who helped make the more than $10 million vision a reality.
Teamwork consisted of developers Synergy and Brookfield Homes, who donated 2.5 acres of newly developed land for the project; the city of Santa Clarita and Los Angeles County, which each invested $3.6 million; and the thousands of donors who gave back during fundraisers and matching programs.
One of the most talked-about features of the center was the donor dedication wall located in the lobby, which reads, “In recognition of those who contributed to making this center possible.”
One of the several plaques on the wall reads, “In honor of Emma Benes. Love, Cindy Benes.”
Cindy, who donated $500 to the project, said it meant a lot to see Emma’s name on the wall.
“I never met her, but she was my great-grandmother,” she said. “(Emma) lived a hard life and wasn’t acknowledged or recognized throughout her life but, really, the point is, I get to remember her with this wall.”
In recognizing the significance of the new center, L.A. County 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger said, “No longer is the Senior Center where people go and play dominos, although you can, or cards. It’s about being active. It’s about dance. It’s about getting up and experiencing life. This senior center takes it to a whole other level.”
Santa Clarita Mayor Marsha McLean, who was accompanied by the rest of the City Council, called the new facility a “labor of love” and a “social hub for the entire Santa Clarita community.” She mentioned some ways the city has worked with the organization to allow for a seamless transition, such as adjusting the transit system schedule for easier access.
The Market Street location is expected to close down Friday, April 26, and services at the new locale are scheduled to be available starting Monday, April 29, according to MacDonald.
The former Senior Center location is owned by Los Angeles County, and officials have not yet made a determination on what will become of the property once it’s vacated, according to Stephanie English, field deputy for Barger.
Barger plans to work with stakeholders to see what the best options would be for the next use of the property, which would ultimately require approval from the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.