Plans for a senior center to be located at the former Gates Intermediate School site are moving forward with the selection of an Owner’s Project Manager.
Late in 2017, the Public Building Commission received eight applications for the Owner’s Project Manager position. After a review by the commission, four applicants were chosen as finalists, with three being interviewed.
Weymouth-based Vertex has been chosen as the OPM for the project. The town has worked with the company before – they handed similar responsibilities for the building of the Scituate Public Safety Complex.
“All the applicants were very good,” said John Miller, chairman of the Council on Aging Board of Directors and a member of the Public Building Commission. “It was a difficult decision. Proximity was a benefit, and other people on the commission were really pleased with their previous experience with the company. There were a lot of different factors. It was close.”
Linda Hayes, director of the council on aging and the senior center, also was a member of the Public Building Commission in OPM discussions for the new senior center.
“I was in favor of the Vertex selection and thought they demonstrated the required knowledge and experience for this type of project,” Hayes said. “I am looking forward to working with them on the next step.”
Hayes has been directly involved in the project and will continue to be part of the project as it moves to Town Meeting.
Vertex will be officially brought onboard pending contract negotiations.
This past October, after several public meetings, as well as an online survey, the board of selectmen voted to build a new stand alone senior center on the property of the former Gates Intermediate School, one of four sites reviewed in a feasibility study conducted by the architectural firm Bargmann Hendrie and Archetype.
The results of the feasibility study were presented at an open meeting in June 2017.
In addition to the former Gates School property, the feasibility study looked at Branch Street near the library, Country Way at the Purple Dinosaur Playground, and Kent Street along the Driftway as a possible home for the new 15,000 square foot, two-level building.
Later last summer an online survey asking five specific questions about the new senior center was available to residents. More than 550 people took the survey.
During the October meeting, the pros and cons of the four proposed sites were addressed, and considerable input was taken from members of the Scituate Council on Aging Board of Directors, as well as from many of the approximately 75 residents who attended.
Many seniors expressed their disappointment at the Gates location, having preferred the Branch Street location or the Driftway location instead.
“The next step once the OPM is set is for the scope of the project to be finalized so the OPM can then construct an RFP (Request for Proposal) for an architect,” Selectmen Chariman Maura Curran said.
The scope of the project would be determined by the OPM and the selectmen in conjunction with the council on aging.
“We have to decide where on this property the senior center is going to sit,” Curran said. “We need to figure out what we would like the architect to look at; do we want to take down the Gates building, do we take down part of it?”
Three options as to just where the building would be located on the property have been discussed.
One option is for the senior center to be placed in the rear of the property near to the Little Red Schoolhouse. The second option would have the senior center in the front of the old Gates school building, to the right. The third option is to build the senior center behind the old school building near the track and athletic fields.
It is likely the tennis courts and fields currently located on the site would remain.
“I think it will be a great thing,” Miller said, adding the new senior center needs to be as “multi-functional as possible. It’s about what is in the best interest for the Town of Scituate, and what’s best for the seniors, and the answer has to be the same."
As the project progresses, there will be open meetings the public is welcome to attend.
“We propose to take advantage of the central site location to deliver a valuable community asset that all will be proud to have and enjoy, whether because they will participate, will have loved ones participate, will volunteer, may have occasion to be involved in multigenerational activities, or may use it as a community resource—all will benefit,” Hayes said. "But most importantly, we need to be able to accommodate the necessary programs, services, activities and events that constitute a true senior center providing older adults with connection and opportunity to be engaged, informed, and active.”
Annual Town Meeting in April will decide if funds are to be appropriated to hire an architect. An RFP would not be released until the funds have been approved by a Town Meeting vote.
“I’m committed to getting a senior center built,” Curran said. “It’s way overdue.”
Follow Ruth Thompson on Twitter @scituateruth.