Needham residents could see activity at the site of the new senior center as early as next week, Needham Council on Aging Director Jamie Brenner Gutner said Wednesday.
Gutner said she had heard at a recent meeting of the Permanent Public Building Committee that fencing at the site could go up next week in preparation for the project’s first phase.
“It’s very exciting,” Gutner said of the news. “There’s just a wonderful, full feeling that something that has been so hard-fought for—not just for the six years I’ve been here but for so many years, with hard work and energy from so many people—is finally happening. It made me feel such a wonderful sense of accomplishment and satisfaction for all of us. We really did it.”
Although an official groundbreaking has not yet been scheduled, construction is expected to begin in April now that a contractor has been picked. Following a formal bid process, Holliston-based Colantonio Inc. was selected to manage the project, which involves construction of a two-story, 20,000-square-foot senior center at the corner of Hillside Avenue and West Street.
“We are anticipating breaking ground in early April,” said Steve Popper, director of construction and renovation for the town. “The building permit application has been submitted, and we’re waiting for that to clear. Then we should be off and running on the project.”
The $8.5 million project last November and when completed will provide all new space for Council on Aging offices, programs and events. The building will replace the department’s current space in the basement of the on Pickering Street.
For the first phase of the project, MBTA parking will be limited to the northern portion of the lot while workers construct a new, shared lot on the south side. The first phase, which is expected to last about three months, will also include construction of the building’s basement, Popper said. Once that part is completed, parking will be moved permanently to the south side of the lot, and building construction will continue.
While the parking lot is being renovated, commuters should note that only the north side entrance will be accessible. Once work is completed, the south side entrance will become the main entrance to the MBTA parking lot, Popper said.
The next phase of the project will involve constructing the “skeleton” of the building, which should be completed by next winter, with interior work continuing into spring 2013, Popper said.
The new senior center is expected to open by September 2013.
Colantonio Inc. has done several major projects in the area, including the phased renovation of the building in Needham Heights. Other past projects include the Waltham Senior Center, Weston and Brookline town halls, Canton Fire Department and Fogg Library in Weymouth, according to the company website.
Popper said town officials were pleased with the selection.
“They’ve worked in Needham before,” he said of Colantonio Inc. “They were one of a dozen firms that we prequalified to bid on the job. They do come highly qualified, and they’ve got good credentials.”
Throughout the public hearings and discussions about building a new senior center, it has been business as usual for the Council on Aging staff and volunteers, as they continue offering a variety of programs for Needham adults. Recently, Gutner learned that the center had received reaccreditation from the National Institute of Senior Centers.
In 1999, the Needham senior center was the first in Massachusetts to receive accreditation, earning reaccreditation in 2004. Accreditation is typically reviewed every five years, but the latest process was delayed while the town considered what the future would look like for the senior center, Gutner said.
In December, a representative from the National Institute of Senior Centers visited the Stephen Palmer Senior Center and gave Gutner and her staff a “glowing review," Gutner said—lauding their efforts and the quality of their services despite working in a less-than-ideal location.
“We have not hung back. We have marched forward,” Gutner said. “To have the on-site reviewer recognize that ... I’m very proud.”
A representative from the Needham Council on Aging is expected to receive a reaccreditation plaque today at the American Society on Aging conference in Washington, D.C., Gutner said.