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Town Talks Bottom Line on Senior Center

Thu, 11/30/2023 - 08:47
A rendering of East Hampton Town's new senior citizens center. The town hopes construction will begin next year.
R2 Architecture

The design development phase of East Hampton Town’s new 22,000-square-foot senior citizens center, to be constructed on seven acres on Abraham’s Path in Amagansett, is all but complete, leaving the town board to decide on a few remaining details as it seeks to balance up-front costs for the $31.6 million project with its goals for a net-zero facility and minimal maintenance of its components. 

The next step is to make contract documents so the town can solicit bids for the project, Carol Ross Barney of R2 Architects, a joint venture of Ross Barney Architects and Ronnette Riley Architect, told the board at its work session on Nov. 21. 

The importance of a center to serve those 60 and above was underscored by statistics cited by Jeremy Samuelson, director of the Planning Department, who told the board that the average age of East Hampton residents jumped from 43 to 46 between 2010 and 2020. The 2020 census data shows that the 55-to-65 demographic is the largest in the town, he said, followed by those 65 and above. These are “the two largest chunks of our population,” he said. “One is aging into this set of services, and one is already there.” 

Ronnette Riley told the board that the building itself will cost an estimated $17.735 million. Additional costs for the structure include the center’s commercial kitchen ($594,500), audiovisual system ($320,084), security ($125,557), and solar panel canopies that are to cover parking areas ($3.09 million). 

Site development was put at an additional $9.266 million, with a $200,000 cost for early clearing slated for January included in that figure. The total construction cost of $31.135 million does not include another half-million dollars for furniture. “So when speaking about the project, hard costs, we’re saying it’s $31.6 million,” Ms. Riley said. 

An 80-foot-by-600-foot flagpole portion of the parcel — the driveway to the center — adds cost to the project, Ms. Riley said, as “we have to bring all the utilities — fire hydrant, water, electrical — up that 600 feet and distribute it through the site before we ever get to the building. Those costs are about $1 million.” The flagpole portion represents 15 percent of the overall lot, she said, but only 11 percent of the site development cost and 3 percent of the overall cost of the project. Parking on the flagpole portion could be used both for the center and the adjacent Terry King playing fields, she said. 

The board decided early on that net zero and other sustainability features were essential, pointing to its 2021 climate emergency declaration, which commits it to make climate mitigation and the elimination of greenhouse gas emissions “a guiding principle and objective of all municipal operations, all policy and purchasing decisions, all planning and zoning decisions, [and] all aspects of town business” for the foreseeable future. 

“Those premiums in the overall budget are approximately $4.6 million,” Ms. Riley said. The photovoltaic system, “which allows us to generate our power for the site without fossil fuels,” accounts for the largest portion of that figure. The geothermal heating and cooling system will cost a little more than $1 million, “a higher capital cost, but it’s a lower life-cycle cost,” she said. 

The center could use asphalt paving, “but we would create a heat island, and it’s much less energy-sensitive than if we use concrete,” Ms. Riley said. The cost differential between the two is around $500,000. Additional premiums include electric vehicle charging stations, rainwater harvesting, and an all-electric kitchen. 

In addition to savings realized by paving with asphalt instead of concrete, removing parking along the flagpole portion of the site would save around $75,000. The plans presently include three walking trails, one of them Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant. Removing the other two “more demanding” trails would save around $276,000, and removing the EV charging stations another $44,000. Removal of an emergency generator would save around $357,000, although “it is part of the resiliency plan,” Ms. Riley said, as the site is intended to be a warming and cooling center for residents in the event of an extreme-weather event such as a hurricane. 

“We’ve really focused on natural materials with low-embedded carbon,” Ms. Ross Barney told the board. In looking at architecture in the town, “we were really impressed by the shingle tradition,” she said. But wood shingles need maintenance and replacement, she said, so the architects propose a stainless steel shingle that in addition to having a long life needs little to no maintenance. “But we also selected it because we think it will be beautiful on this site,” she said, describing a variety of reflective finishes. “It’s our intention for the building to reflect the natural site. We want the shingle to act almost like camouflage on the site, so it truly feels like you’re in nature when you’re in this building.” Councilman David Lys, citing the need to fund more affordable housing in the town, suggested eliminating several of the components listed in the architects’ presentation, including concrete paving, the non-A.D.A.-compliant trails, and parking and solar panels on the complex’s southern end.

Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc disagreed. “I find the design to be very forward thinking and addressing a number of our community goals and concerns, from reaching net zero on all future projects to engaging the public to find out what kind of facility the community supports,” he said. “I think it’s really important that we stay on track for net zero. As much as that might cost somewhat additional, at this point I think the benefits outweigh the initial costs over time.” Opportunities to reduce maintenance costs should be taken, he said, and all of the walking trails preserved. 

He also voiced support for the full array of solar panels as envisioned by the architects. “I know it’s expensive,” he said, “but again, we’re trying to reach net zero. We’ve already made a climate declaration as a town board to seek to meet net zero on all future construction and this is a very large project, and we should practice what we preach.” With money from the community benefits package agreed to with developers of the South Fork Wind farm to start flowing soon, the town “will have quite a bit of money coming in on a regular basis over the next 25 years. Contributing some of that toward our net-zero goals is leveraging renewable energy to help us reach net zero here.” The town will also seek grant funding, he said. 

Councilwoman Cate Rogers agreed that the solar canopies should remain in the plan — “while isolated it looks like a tremendous amount of money, it’s money well spent,” she said — as should the walking trails, the emergency generator, and concrete paving, which a consultant told the board could last twice as long as asphalt. But she expressed lingering uncertainty as to the metal shingles “in terms of how it will look and how it fits into East Hampton.” 

Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, the supervisor-elect, also agreed that the solar canopies are needed, but asked if consolidating them on the site could reduce their cost. The charging stations and generator are also needed, she said. 

“The amount and the quantity of photovoltaics is directly related to the energy consumption of the building, and the primary driver is the commercial kitchen,” Ms. Riley said. “There’s a relationship, so reducing, consolidating — those all have to be taken into account when looking at the equipment and the services provided by that kitchen.” 

Preparation of construction documents is anticipated to take around 16 weeks, Ms. Riley said, “with an expected go-to-bid date in April and May.” Bidding will span another 12 weeks, with construction projected to begin in July 2024 and conclude around the end of 2025. 

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