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Report recommends replacing Newton’s senior center with new building

The Newton Senior Center.
The Newton Senior Center.Leslie Anderson

Newton needs a new and larger senior center to meet the changing needs of its growing population of residents over age 60, according to a city working group, which recommended replacing the existing building on Walnut Street in Newtonville.

The city should build a new center at the site of the former branch library that can help expand its programming and services for older residents, according to the feasibility report released last month.

“Newton would like to be known as a City that promotes an age-friendly community for residents to desire to ‘Age in Place,’” the report said. “Construction of a new senior center is an essential step in supporting the residents.”


The recommendation from the city’s Newton Center for Active Living (NewCAL) Working Group comes nearly a year after Mayor Ruthanne Fuller announced that the Senior Center will remain in its current Newtonville location.

The city’s Department of Senior Services, with the support of the Council on Aging, serves about 5,000 people each year through the Senior Center, according to the feasibility report. Those services include social, cultural and recreational programs, support groups, health education, elder law assistance, and physical activities.

About 19,000 Newton residents -- more than one-fifth of the city’s population -- are age 60 or older, according to the report. Currently, 40 percent of households have at least one member who is older than age 60.

The group of residents who are age 60 and older is expected to reach 30 percent of the city’s population by 2030, the report said.

The existing Senior Center at 345 Walnut St. was originally the Newtonville branch of the city’s public library, and opened in 1938. The building reopened as the Newton Senior Center following a 1993 renovation.

The roughly 11,300-square-foot, two-and-a-half story Classical Revival building was originally designed by the Boston architecture firm of Robb & Little, according to the report.


Based on the city’s research, to address the growing and changing needs of its senior community the Senior Center requires between 30,000 and 35,000 square feet of space, the report said.

The working group, made up of elected leaders, city officials, and community members, notified Fuller of their recommendation in a separate memo. Group members evaluated dozens of options for either rebuilding or replacing the existing facility, according to the memo.

A renovation and expansion of the current center is expected to cost more, according to the memo, and would compromise the program officials hope to achieve at the site.

Even with a new building, the working group said preservation should be part of the project. The existing building “has architectural character that is important and is also a part of the fabric of Newtonville,” the memo said.

Where feasible, historically significant elements on and inside the existing building should be preserved and installed in a manner “that respects their significance and pays tribute to the rich history of the existing building,” the memo said, such as the current building’s stained glass windows.

“The fundamental design goal for the new facility will be to create a beautiful building that fits into the fabric of Newtonville and that has sufficient glass and ‘openness’ that older residents as well as others may sense the activity in the building and feel an invitation to come inside,” the memo said.


John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.