Senior Center goal 78% complete

Published 3:41 am Saturday, July 23, 2011

In January 2011, the COA began a capital campaign to raise $350,000 toward renovations of this site. Once completed the site will include a cafe, fitness center and multi-use meeting space. (Vigilant photo provided)

Cass County Council on Aging’s $350,000 campaign for a Dowagiac Senior Center is 78 percent accomplished, COA leaders said Wednesday.

Executive Director Bob Cochrane hopes to complete the campaign and three months of additional construction for a January 2012 opening.

The COA, based in Cassopolis, has already spent $100,000 – $30,000 acquiring the former doughnut shop/KFC from the city and $70,000 reproofing it during the winter to protect its investment.

City Manager Kevin Anderson said from Dowagiac’s perspective,”We are very, very excited about it. It fits very well with the long-term vision that this community has had for its downtown for a long period of time, dating back to when the (state trunkline) got moved and the streetscape was improved. We wanted our downtown to be a gathering place where people wanted to be …

“This will serve this organization and this community for a long time,” Anderson added.

“Our vision for these two buildings — and it’s hard to know unless you’re a futurist what seniors are going to be interested in five, 10, 20 years from now,” Bob Long, COA director of development and community relations said, “but it’s a pretty good guess what the major areas will be. Eating. Nutrition, so the Internet Cafe is a window to Front Street … We hope to be a point of community contact for all ages to come in.

“Some of our entertainment programs we have in Cass at lunchtime might be moved over here or alternated,” Long said. “We’re looking at a fitness center here with state-of-the art equipment – recumbent bicycles, treadmills and elipticals. Not as many as we have over there (in Cassopolis) because of space, but the cool thing about this will be for those members who do go back and forth, you can work out in either place. There will be lockers and showers and a cushioned floor surface designed for exercise.”

“The third piece to this is lifelong learning,” Long said. “People continue to learn, whether it’s crafts or discussions on politics. We want to provide a place for that kind of enrichment for lecture workshops, intergenerational programming by bringing in high school kids. Other community groups will be able to use it, thanks to a dedicated separate entrance” toward the rear, where the Art Guild had the Rose Gallery.

It is a $700,000 project, of which the COA board, represented by President Eleanore Flowers committed half.

“It’s a model for the Midwest and nationally for an area this size,” Long said.

Outside, there will be inscribed bricks recognizing three levels of donations – 12 inches by 12 inches, $1,000+; 8 inches square for $500+; and 4 inches by 8 inches for $250+.

“Gifts of any amount are appreciated,” Long said. “It’s fun to see this develop. We think once we get the building open, traffic patterns will flow there pretty quickly. The synergy between the senior center, the restaurants, retail and the financial institutions will hopefully really contribute to the ongoing redevelopment in downtown Dowagiac.”

Joy Strand, Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital administrator, was told the senior center would probably launch with hours of 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday initially, then be adjusted as warranted. “We can always expand them if demand is shown,” Cochrane said.

COA is sponsoring Al Mott to play in the parking lot beside the location Friday afternoon, July 29, from noon to 2 during Summer in the City. Come to dance or just listen.

Donations can be sent to: Dowagiac campaign, Cass COA, P.O. Box 5, Cassopolis, MI 49031-0005.