An organization that offers services and programs to the aging community has asked the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors to find room in future budgets to help pay for construction of a new facility.
“The aging of our population is the No. 1 demographic issue our country and our commonwealth faces,” said Peter Thompson, executive director of the Senior Center Inc.
The Senior Center has been in operation since 1960 and Thompson said the group has never asked for local, state or federal funding. But now the group is asking Albemarle and Charlottesville to consider contributing toward a $23 million capital campaign for a new building at Belvedere that would triple its operating space.
“We are already over a third of the way there in assets,” Thompson said at a supervisors meeting earlier this month. “If the city and county can invest the $2 million that we’re requesting, that will kick us over halfway, which we know will inspire additional support from private philanthropy.”
The Senior Center is not asking for money in the fiscal year budgets currently being debated by the city and county. Thompson said they have submitted the proposal now to begin the conversation.
“The proposal that they’ve put forward, I think, would score pretty well in our capital improvement process because it does take into consideration other revenue sources and partnerships,” said county executive Tom Foley.
The request is similar to one made by the Piedmont Family YMCA for its 70,000-square-foot aquatics center now under construction in McIntire Park. Albemarle invested $2 million and Charlottesville paid just over $1 million toward the project.
In return, both communities were able to fulfill the need for more recreational space without having to construct their own buildings.
Now the Senior Center wants to work out a similar arrangement in order to build more community meeting and recreational space in the county’s northern urban ring.
Thompson said one in four residents of the area will be over the age of 65 by the year 2030.
“We are well on our way to reach those numbers,” he said.
“This is a huge group of people that are going to be impacted over these next number of years, and the infrastructure that you need isn’t here,” said Michael Guthrie, chairman of the Senior Center’s Board of Directors.
“We’re willing to take on a huge part of that to make this facility available to help the county offer services to this age group and not have to pay another dime,” Guthrie said.
Thompson said the Senior Center aims to provide programs that allow people to age in a healthy manner.
“Healthy aging is the social, intellectual and physical wellness that research consistently shows are the keys that help all of us to remain as active and independent as possible,” Thompson said. “The more Albemarle County is an age-friendly community, the more those of us who have been blessed to find our way here at earlier ages will stay.”
However, the new facility would not just be for the older population.
“We feel strongly about being multigenerational, and that’s why we’ve changed the name to the Center at Belvedere,” Guthrie said. “Kids can go play basketball in the gymnasium and their parents and grandparents can walk on the trail and stop for a cup of coffee.”
The project appeared to have soft support from supervisors.
“I applaud you for looking to the future,” said Supervisor Diantha McKeel. “I certainly recognize your facility is aging and not adequate and I can see the need for this in the community.”
Supervisor Ann H. Mallek said many of her rural constituents take advantage of programs at the center.
“The tap dancing classes, the music classes and the band — there are so many different ways that different individuals with different interests can participate,” Mallek said.
However, Supervisor Rick Randolph said any funding for the Senior Center should be considered as part of a larger view of the county’s approach to the aging community.
“Otherwise, we’re getting back to ad hoc funding and we’re not strategically funding as we should be,” Randolph said.
Supervisors will discuss the matter further in May at a strategic planning meeting.