Survey would gauge Trumbull residents’ opinions on new senior center site

The day after a committee approved a pair of potential replacements for the current Senior Center, the existing property’s shortcomings were on display during a comedy variety show Friday.

“It was a great show, they perform free for nursing homes and senior centers,” said Human Services Director Michele Jakab. “We had a great turnout.”

But the large numbers of seniors coming to the show highlighted the building’s limited points of entry and exit, and inadequate parking, she said.

“We had people out stopping traffic so people could get in and out because of the parking situation,” she said.

More parking, easy entry and plenty of activity space are the main features the Community Facilities Building Committee is seeking to incorporate into the design of the new center. The group has completed its review of potential sites and designs and now town residents will get their say.

According to Committee Chairman Lori Hayes-O’Brien, a survey explaining the various proposals and soliciting feedback should be ready by early 2020. The survey likely would also include information from the Aquatics Building Committee, which also is nearing completion of its task of reviewing potential designs, locations and costs for an aquatics facility.

“After a lot of discussion, the committee settled on two plans for each of the two possible locations,” Hayes-O’Brien said. “The first is for a simple 22,000-square-foot building either on Church Hill Road or at the site of the current Long Hill Administration Building. The enhanced plans would be about 30,000 feet and include basement space for programs and the building’s mechanicals.”

Currently, the Senior Center is housed in the former Nichols School building on Priscilla Place. At over 20,000-square-feet, the current center is about the same size as the basic plan under consideration. But the Priscilla Place location was designed as a school and its interior hallways and stairways make for inefficient use of space.

“Even though the basic 22,000-square-foot plans are close to the size of the current building, there would be about 25 percent more usable space,” Hayes-O’Brien said. “The goal is to create something the community really can use. Senior centers tend to be pretty empty after 3 or 4 p.m., so we really want to build something the entire community can use.”

The basic design incorporates a single story and has parking for 150 vehicles. The building’s interior would include activity space, classrooms, meeting rooms, and a cafe that also could double as catering prep space for meetings and activities held at the center.

Jakab said the activity rooms typically provide space for dozens of Trumbull seniors to gather and play cards or billiards, get haircuts and take dance or yoga lessons.

“That’s where the benefits of a new building are,” Hayes-O’Brien said. “When the current building was designed there wasn’t as much need for activity space and pickleball wasn’t a thing.”

Both of the two basic proposals would cost about the same. The current building estimate is $13.7 million to build on Church Hill Road, near Town Hall, and $13.6 million to build at Long Hill.

The larger, 30,000-square-foot proposals include everything in the more basic design, and adds a lower level with 5,000-square-feet of usable space and 7,000-square-feet of storage/mechanical space, for about $3 million more.

Plans to build out the design with up to 30,000-square-feet of additional space to incorporate future expansion has been shelved, though Hayes-O’Brien said all the designs could change as the community reviews the proposals and submits feedback.

“We wanted to keep it on the table and see if people see a need for it,” she said.

The surveys, when complete, likely will be mailed to Trumbull households, possibly with a return envelope or a website to submit responses. Hayes-O’Brien said both options, and both locations, would be upgrades from the current building.

“It’s more activity space, a better design, more parking, and in a better location,” she said.