Senior citizens’ center move still in limbo
The Park City Senior Citizens have been told their meeting place is going to move. They just don’t know where and they don’t know when.
Sound familiar? It does to Judy Maedel. She said she has been hearing about the upcoming move for about three years, since shortly after she was elected the president of the board of the Park City Senior Center.
"They (city officials) were going to put us in the library (building), and that didn’t work because of space, and they didn’t have a kitchen for us," Maedel said. "And then they were going to put us in the Miners Hospital, which isn’t convenient because they don’t have an elevator and it would be hard to get people up and down. So they haven’t decided where to put us yet."
The center, at 1361 Woodside Ave., sits in the middle of a piece of city-owned property that is being considered for other uses, including a housing project. The city owns lots south and west of the center as well as the former fire station that faces Park Avenue and the field north of the Park City Library and Education Center.
The city first broached the subject of moving the center late in 2012. At that time, a staff report said that work could start as early as the spring of 2014.
However, in the meantime, the Park City Council asked staff to take more of a master-planning approach to the city’s property in the area around the senior center, according to Rhoda Stauffer, Park City housing specialist, who spends part of her time working on seniors’ issues.
"We were projecting that they would be moving by last year, but then we started the whole concept of the Lower Park Avenue design charette, because the council wanted to relook at some of the original ideas of what we were planning to do, and so that just pushed it forward just a little bit more," Stauffer said.
Finding the best use for these parcels was the subject of a "design studio" in July 2015 that involved local architects, designers, planners and city officials. Among other subjects, the participants discussed locating the center in a new multi-use building just south of the Miners Hospital, Stauffer said. They also suggested putting it in a freestanding building near the Park City Library or in a new community center on the site of the old fire station, she said.
"They knew that senior programming was one of the issues," Stauffer said. "They had several ideas of where a center could be built for seniors, and that was the one I really liked — over right beside Miners Hospital — because I felt like Miners would be utilized more if we had a multi-function space right beside it."
Maedel said Stauffer and other city staff have been good about staying in touch with the seniors, but haven’t had much to tell them. "They keep us updated on what’s going on, and so far — nothing. There hasn’t been anything really new."
On Monday, Oct. 5, Stauffer and City Manager Diane Foster visited the senior center to answer questions about the future of the center.
"We’re doing the final stage of community engagement about exactly what the seniors want for a center," Stauffer said. "It is likely to be a multi-use facility in the end because the seniors only use (the present building) about six hours per week three hours each over lunchtime on Monday and Thursday. … And that building is not in great shape anymore."
Stauffer said that none of the discussions at the July design studio involved leaving the center in its present location. "We’re replacing that center with something different, and I’m not sure where it will be located. Something that will have much better kitchen facilities, much better space for everything that the seniors want to do, as well as other members of the community, because it’s not the best use of taxpayer resources to have a facility sit empty except for six hours a week. And I personally think a new facility will also accommodate the seniors’ needs better than that space."
Dan Schweikert, a senior center board member, challenged the assertion that the building is used only six hours a week. He said it’s used every morning by another group unaffiliated with the senior citizens. He pointed out that an exercise group led by trainers from the PC MARC meets there twice a week. And he noted that the seniors also meet there every other Wednesday to watch movies.
On the other hand, Schweikert does acknowledge that the present building has its shortcomings.
"One problem with this as a senior center is there isn’t really any auditorium space," he said. "If you go down and see the senior center in Heber, which is a new building, there’s a stage. They set up tables for lunch but, if they’re having a program, the tables can get moved out and there’s a place for a presentation."
Wherever the center ends up, Schweikert and Maedel emphasized, it needs to be on a city bus route.
Park City senior citizens may have set a precedent for future building relocations (including the Miners Hospital in 1979 and the Mid-Mountain Lodge in 1987) when they accepted a donation from the Union Pacific Railroad in 1976. The donation involved a 2,400-square-foot train depot located in Keetley, a small Wasatch County town destined to be swallowed by the Jordanelle Reservoir. "If you can move it, you can have it," Union Pacific officials said in so many words.
In May 1976, a group of seniors met with the Park City Council asking for permission to move the building to a piece of city-owned land in the 1400 block between Woodside and Norfolk Avenues. Representing the seniors were Otto Carpenter and Robert Burns Sr., the same men who, 30 years earlier, had built the Snow Park ski area on land now occupied by lower Deer Valley.
When City Recorder Bruce Decker reminded the council that the land was quite valuable because of its location near the Park City Resort, Carpenter had an answer: "We know the ground is worth a lot of money, but we feel our senior citizens are every bit as important as the resort," he said. "It’s a road you’ll all have to walk someday."
The council voted unanimously to approve the seniors’ request. In July 1976, the council approved a 99-year lease at $1 per year. However, senior citizens’ president Violet Terry initially balked at signing the lease because of a termination clause that would give the city the right to evict the seniors at some future point.
Terry, or another senior, apparently relented and signed the lease because the building was trundled into place in early October after a two-day trip from Keetley. The move cost $5,500, with $4,000 covered by a federal grant and the rest raised by the seniors themselves.
In the next year, Carpenter worked tirelessly to transform the old depot into a senior center. Others on the work crew included Bill Eppley, Chuck Mones, Jack Rukavina, Jim Totora, Ray Wortley and Alvin Young. At the dedication in January 1978, Terry spoke and former silent-movie accompanist Blanche Fletcher played a few numbers on the accordion.
Since then the building has been extended with an addition on the south end. Today it is occupied by a different generation of seniors, most of whom grew up in distant parts of the country. One of the exceptions is Blanche Fletcher’s daughter-in-law, Peggy Fletcher, whose late husband Mel started the ski school at Snow Park.
Although the building may have its usefulness as a senior center, Stauffer said the city doesn’t want to demolish the historic part of the structure, which dates from the 1920s.
"Our hope is to find a use for it an alternate use for it and move it off of that the property," she said. "For a while we were in discussions with the city of Francis because they needed a better town hall structure, and they were going to take it and refurbish it for their town hall. But they found an alternative and moved ahead. They couldn’t wait for our time frame, and so they resolved their need for a town hall.
"So we’re back to not (being) sure what it would be used for, but hopefully (it will be) recommissioned somewhere else."
A critic of a Park City workforce or otherwise affordable housing project in Old Town said he is considering an appeal of the Park City Planning Commission’s approval of the development.