Martin hopes to strike a deal for new senior center

GREENFIELD — The town’s next senior center might be built across the street from the Mill House Apartments.

Mayor William Martin told town council leaders Monday night that the town is negotiating with the owner of Mill House on Wells Street to lease under-utilized land across the street from the complex, and if all goes well he said the town will start plans to build a new senior and community center there.

“We think this would be a great location for a senior center,” said Martin. “It’s a vacant lot with a parking lot.”

The Mill House has 103 apartments at 75 Wells St. Residents include seniors and those considered low-income. Some of the land across the street is used for parking but the apartment house has its main lot adjacent to the building.

Martin said the lease would be for 99 years and the town would pay just what the property is currently assessed by the town, which is about $40,000.

“Depending on what the town decides, Greenfield could pay it all in one payment or could pay each year,” said Martin.

He said as soon as the town and Beacon Communities LLC in Boston, owner of the property, come to an agreement, the town will put out a request for bids to get estimates on how much a senior and community center will cost.

Martin said the town will seek bids and other types of funding for the project.

“We’ve outgrown our senior center in the Weldon,” said Martin. “We have to do something.” Town officials have been discussing a range of options for a new center in recent years but previous ideas have not panned out.

He said he has discussed the issue with the town’s Council on Aging and Planning and Construction Committee and everyone is on board.

“We would finally like to reach a point where our senior center has a home of its own,” he said.

Hope Macary, director of Greenfield’s Council on Aging, said she’s happy to see that things finally seem to be moving for the town’s seniors.

Macary said the current senior center in the round floor of the Weldon House senior housing project on High Street, is about 7,600 square feet, but that includes hallways, offices and everything else. She said usable space for seniors is under 7,000 square feet.

“We served about 1,500 seniors last year,” she said. “We are definitely over-crowded. It’s really busy here.”

Macary said the biggest reason is baby boomers.

“We have our older seniors who are still with us and then we’ve had this explosion of baby boomers,” she said. “We provide everything from social activities like games to physical activities and exercise to social services help,” said Macary. “We counsel our senior on everything from food stamps to fuel assistance to Medicare and legal issues.”

Macary said the senior center has three full-time employees, including herself, and one not-quite-half-time employee.

“We also have about 75 volunteers, many of whom are seniors themselves,” she said.

Macary said she has been with the Greenfield Council on Aging for 16 years and has never seen it busier than this year and last.

She said the Council on Aging meets regularly and has been discussing a new center for several years.

“Our seniors have been waiting a long time,” said Macary. “We need Greenfield to be a good place to grow up and grow old.”

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