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Senior Center eyes new property

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The Sequim Senior Activity Center could be in a new facility in seven to eight years. 

Michael Smith, executive director, said the center won a state auction bid on April 28 for 4.48 acres at the intersection of Lofgrin Road and Washington Harbor Loop.

This land was to become a vehicle rest stop by Washington State Department of Transportation but development fell through, so it was deemed surplus.

Smith said the center’s bid of a little less than $219,000 was the only one.

The property averages out to about $1.12 per square foot.

“It’s a bargain,” Smith said.

“With a $206,000 minimum bid, what we got was great. We were prepared to bid $100,000 more.”

Board member Patricia Hatcher said she’s been looking for property the senior center could buy since 2007.

“It’s a huge relief,” Hatcher said.

“It’s been a long, hard road. For every senior in this town, this building will mean a lot for those now and in the future.”

Financing the future
Center staff and volunteers acted fast to bring in funds. They mailed letters of intent to purchase the land to the center’s 1,495 members. 

Smith said 140 members donated $52,005 so far. 

“We’re just beginning to reach out,” Smith said.

To complete the purchase, they’ll need $166,538 more by Monday, June 21.

If all the cash isn’t in hand by then, Smith said he has three potential sources for a loan but his and the board members’ goal is to buy the land debt free.

“There might be people who aren’t ready to come to the center now, but in 10 years it’ll still be a relatively new building,” Smith said.

Crunch time
Even with the dreams of a big, new building, board members know the economy is tough and so are fundraising efforts.

“I think we have a very hard job ahead of us,” Hatcher said.

“I’m doing everything possible to find ways to make this work.”

Ray Bentsen, first vice president of the board, said it will examine all its options.

“It needs to go beyond just the small donations from the pockets around the center,” he said.

“But, I feel confident everything will go well with the acquisition of the property.”

Creating awareness
The push to buy the property is caused by the current heavily used but undersized center on 1.1 acres at 921 E. Hammond St.

“It’s crammed and inconvenient,” Hatcher said.

“To go from room to room, you have to disturb other groups and activities.”

The center is a remodeled warehouse.

“Hopefully, we can make something the community will be proud of,” Bentsen said.

“We’re well aware it’s going to require a large amount of money. We don’t think it’s just going to be a one- or two-year project.”

Location
The new property is just west of the “Sequim welcomes you” elk sign on U.S. Highway 101 and adjacent to the Olympic Discovery Trail and westbound Washington Street exit.

“It’s 1.4 miles farther (east) than where we are now  (at the senior center), but it’s worth it,” Smith said.

The center’s board members toured the site a few times and unanimously decided to bid.

“I went out and looked at the property and what struck me was that it’s flat and level,” Bentsen said.

“As far as older people getting around, it’s more desirable than other properties that were available.”

“We couldn’t ask for any more than we got. It’s such a blessing,” Hatcher said.

Smith said one of the biggest draws is that they could expand the space from 10,000 square feet to 20,000 square feet.
 
Building specifics
Before anything is set in stone, Smith wants to receive feedback from the community to make it a working facility for users. Some of his goals are to have two stories so it can overlook the Strait of Juan de Fuca, a covered portico for loading and unloading, rooftop gardens similar to the nearby Holiday Inn Express, be able to expand for future growth and have 140 parking spots.

Smith said the construction starting in five to six years depends on fundraising efforts.

Preliminary estimated costs for the project are $5 million to $7.5 million. 

When the new building is completed, the current building and adjacent parking lot would be sold, he said.

Proceeds would pay for construction loans or a mortgage, if needed. If not, then funds will go to an endowment for future operations and projects.

Tour
The center is arranging tours and has maps of the new property for members and potential donors. The next tour begins at 10 a.m. Tuesday, May 11. Call to ensure a seat on the bus.

Sequim Senior Activity Center is a nonprofit organization, so donations are tax deductible.
Call 683-6806, e-mail sequimsr@olypen.com, see www.sequimseniorcenter.org or visit 921 E. Hammond St., Sequim, for more information.

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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