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Lymes' senior center building committee hires firm for feasibility study

Old Lyme — The Lymes' Senior Center Building Committee has selected a local architectural firm for a feasibility study to serve as the basis for possible renovation or expansion.

The committee earlier this month selected Point One Architects + Planners of Old Lyme to conduct a $19,500 study.

Committee Chairwoman Jeri Baker said skyrocketing membership under the leadership of senior center director Stephanie Gould went from 300 members to more than 1,500 in less than five years.

In its request for proposals, the committee said it is exploring ways to better utilize existing space or to expand.

The senior center is funded by the towns of Lyme and Old Lyme for building projects and capital improvements, according to Baker. The center covers the rest through dues, community contributions and legacy endowments.

The building committee received $15,000 total from the two towns for the study, Baker said. The senior center board of directors matched that amount.

The committee voted unanimously to award the contract to Point One at its May 14 meeting.

"They're a small firm and they're local," Baker said. "We love their design approach, but we love the idea that they're local in the community."

The committee interviewed three firms out of eight applicants, Baker said. The Middletown, Connecticut-based Northeast Collaborative Architects came in at $14,500, while QA&M architecture out of Farmington came in at $29,500.

Baker said cost was not the primary factor guiding the selection. "We were more concerned that we would have a firm that would understand who we are and would be able to come up with a study that reflects the consensus of the community and the input of the community," she said.

Located in Old Lyme on Town Woods Road, the center was built in 1996 and has not undergone renovations since, the committee said.

The committee asked applicants to look at existing space within the facility as well as its parking arrangement, and to complete three conceptual plan options for renovation with associated costs.

Point One partner Gregory Nucci in the proposal cited the firm's experience conducting feasibility studies for organizations including the Lyme Art Association, Essex Savings Bank and the Essex Yacht Club.

Nucci described a process that "brings individuals together" through design workshops.

"The workshop results reveal valuable design insights and help foster consensus and goodwill amongst all stakeholders including community members, developers, design team, and neighbors," Nucci wrote. "Through our experience, it is critical to involve the community early in the planning process, because a project's success can hinge upon how well it is received by its community."

Baker said it was important to the committee that the selected firm consider the center's long-term needs in the broader context of how senior centers are evolving and being used within communities.

"We wanted them to look 15-20 years down the line," she said.

The center serves people 55 and over — or "55 and better," as described in the center's newsletter — which Baker described as a multigenerational community spanning almost 50 years from its youngest members to its centenarians.

"We're trying to look to see what we can do to make sure we serve all of them," she said.

The center also houses the Lyme/Old Lyme Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1467 and a town nurse through the Visiting Nurse Association of Southeastern Connecticut.

Baker said the committee expects the study to begin in mid-June for completion by mid-September.

The firm's proposal allots about four weeks for zoning and building code review, taking measurements and creating base drawings; two weeks for conducting workshops; three weeks to develop the requested conceptual plans; and another week for the final presentation.

Baker said the study is a way to determine what the center will look like in the future and what the needs are in the community.

It's also a tool to build consensus, she said: "That's going to be important because we also know we have to be accountable to both towns for financing."

Editor's Note: This version corrects the price of the contract from $24,000 to $19,500.

e.regan@theday.com

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