Senior Center weighs expanding space in Mountain Lodge

  • Cathy Buntin, director of the Senior Center of Shelburne Falls, chats with guests. The Mountain Lodge of Masons has proposed changing the terms of its current agreement with the Senior Center, making it as a potential option for its planned expanded, renewed facility. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 6/4/2019 7:09:20 PM

SHELBURNE FALLS — After a couple years of searching for sites to house a new Senior Center, the Mountain Lodge of Masons has thrown its hat in the ring.

The Senior Center of Shelburne Falls has leased the first floor of the Mountain Lodge at 7 Main St. for about 35 years, occupying about half the building, Director Cathy Buntin said. The Senior Center shares the first floor with the Masons, retaining priority of the space on weekdays. Before coming to the lodge, the center moved from the former flower shop on Main Street to the Shelburne-Buckland Community Center and then back again, Buntin said.

The Senior Center has already considered the option of occupying more space at the Mountain Lodge. A few years ago, before Senior Center project organizers began looking for sites to house a new space, they asked lodge administrators if the center could expand its occupancy, Buntin said. However, those presiding over the Masons were not interested at the time, she said.

Martin Driggs, master of the Mountain Lodge, said the Masons decided to extend a proposal to the Senior Center after seeing the challenges it has faced in finding a site for a new facility. Driggs said doing so would also save money.

“If we could save the town’s money, and also retain our resources to maintain our presence in the village, it would really be win-win,” Driggs said.

The terms of the Mountain Lodge’s proposal are not yet public for legal reasons, Buntin said. Involved parties will consider the “exchange, lease or value of the property” in closed executive sessions at Tuesday and Thursday meetings this week.

The Senior Center is seeking a new, larger space as project organizers say the size and layout of the current facility cannot accommodate users. For example, the location is too small, at 3,620 square feet, which they say limits programming. It also has poor acoustics; limited parking; one restroom; an inefficient heating and cooling system; reception and a copier are in the hallway; and foot traffic is directed through activity rooms.

A lot next to the former Arms Academy building, where the science building used to be, is currently the top choice for a new Senior Center. Architects are doing a site review to determine the property’s viability to house a new Senior Center. The review will be completed in the next couple of weeks, Buntin said.

Before selecting the Arms property for a site review, project organizers examined roughly 20 sites, narrowed that list down to four and then to one — the Arms Academy — at a February public meeting. Residents expressed the most interest in locating the new center on Arms Academy land, though project organizers preferred the Mole Hollow Candle building option. The other two possibilities included renovating the existing Buckland Police Station and constructing a new building on land at Church and Mechanic streets.

“For each site we’ve evaluated them for the pros and cons,” Buntin said. “I believe this expanded use of the center would allow us to include the building in our continued site search as one of the options.”

Reach Grace Bird at gbird@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 280.




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