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Visions Emerge for New Senior Center

Wed, 08/17/2022 - 19:04
East Hampton Town residents offered their vision for the new senior citizens center on notes posted to a board at Town Hall.
Christine Sampson

A budding vision for East Hampton Town’s new senior citizens center, to be constructed on a seven-acre parcel off Abraham’s Path in Amagansett, was unveiled to the town board on Tuesday.

The center can be a new and important asset for the town, Ryan Gann of Ross Barney Architects of Chicago told the board, describing a “home away from home,” a shared space for people of all ages and backgrounds that could offer continued learning opportunities and cultural events while improving the quality of life for residents over 60.

The town board hired R2 Architecture, a joint venture between Ross Barney Architects and Ronnette Riley Architect of New York City and Bridgehampton, to design the new center following the September 2021 acquisition of the property on which it will be constructed. 

Tuesday’s update included conclusions from a community engagement program in May that comprised virtual and in-person listening sessions with users of the present senior citizens center, on Springs-Fireplace Road in East Hampton, and staff of the town’s Human Services Department, as well as a community survey in July and tours of the existing center and the future site, at 403 Abraham’s Path.

The design team spoke with more than 120 residents, elected officials, and staff during the listening sessions, and the July survey collected 397 responses, almost all of them from residents who had not participated in the May listening sessions. They also engaged with local historians to discuss “the past, present, and future of East Hampton to give us context,” Mr. Gann said. The data collected helped inform the core building program, which is to expand on the current offerings.

Nearly three in four respondents were women, Mr. Gann said, noting that according to the National Council on Aging, approximately 70 percent of senior citizens center participants are women.

The architects also solicited residents’ ideas for the center by offering note cards with the words “My vision for the new East Hampton Senior Center is . . .” to be filled out and posted to a board at Town Hall. “Community not ‘senior’ center,” began one response. “A happy place,” read another. “Good area for croquet plus shuffleboard,” began a third. “Bigger tables, bigger kitchen, more help, a lanai so we can sit out even in the rain.”

Core themes emerged from these responses and from the other information gathered, Mr. Gann said: nature/outdoors, activities, arts, wellness, dining, design and site opportunities, and sustainability. The new center is to be a net-zero energy facility.

The community survey revealed a desire for program offerings including, in order of degree of interest, exercise, workshops and classes, lectures, a dining room and coffee bar, outdoor gardens, arts, games, social clubs, and outdoor games. Some of these would require a specific type of space, while others could happen in a flexible space.

The overwhelming consensus as to a name for the new facility is the East Hampton Senior Center, Mr. Gann said.

An initial plan to site the East Hampton Food Pantry at the new senior citizens center has been abandoned, Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez told her colleagues, as its officials prefer that it remain on the Town Hall campus.

The feedback and data collected throughout the community engagement process are informing future programmatic and spatial design decisions, Mr. Gann said. A concept design workshop is to be held next month, with a goal of establishing overall design principles, relationships of spaces to each other, and possible site arrangements in collaboration with outside groups.

Sustainable design principles will emerge from sustainability workshops, also to happen soon. This fall, R2 Architecture is to develop multiple site and building design concepts based on workshop comments and discussions. The architects hope to present a selected design concept to the public in November.

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