The Newton City Council could vote on Monday to fund the proposed Newton Center for Active Living, a project intended to replace the existing senior center in Newtonville with a larger, modern facility.
The proposed plan calls for building a 32,000- to 33,000-square-foot facility at 345 Walnut St., and tearing down the existing 11,000-square-foot senior center.
In a statement, Mayor Ruthanne Fuller said the city can move ahead with the project and break ground next year with City Council approval.
“We’ve got plenty of work left to do, and with the pending final approval, we can now move forward with speed and care to create an exceptional facility with great programs and services for generations to come,” Fuller said.
On Monday, Newton’s city councilors will be asked to approve the site plan for the NewCAL project, along with $19.5 million in funding to allow it to move forward, according to City Council President Susan Albright.
Councilors also will be asked to approve an additional $1.5 million to purchase an abutting property at 47 Walnut Place.
“I certainly do look forward to voting in the affirmative on all these things,” Albright said in an e-mail.
The project’s supporters have said the city needs a larger, more accessible facility to serve its growing senior population.
But critics argue that the current proposal would mean the loss of the existing senior center, which was once the Newtonville branch library and is currently included on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Classical Revival-style building was erected in the 1930s.
In May, Neighbors for a Better Newtonville filed a lawsuit in Middlesex Superior Court to prevent spending on the project, and order the Newton Historical Commission to reconsider whether the existing building should be preserved from demolition.
In a statement last month, Fred Arnstein, the president of Neighbors for a Better Newtonville, warned against knocking down the existing senior center.
“Allowing demolition of this building would set a dangerous precedent. We will continue to oppose the City’s willingness to sacrifice our parks and historic buildings,” Arnstein said in the statement.
City councilors held a closed-door executive session Aug. 1 to discuss the lawsuit, according to the meeting agenda. No public votes were taken as part of that meeting, according to Albright.
The same night, the City Council’s Finance Committee approved the funding for the project. The Finance Committee meeting was held after the executive session.
Finance Committee members Becky Walker Grossman, Lenny Gentile, David Kalis, Emily Norton, Brenda Noel, and John Oliver voted for the NewCAL funding measure. Member Julia Malakie abstained from the vote.
The City Council’s Public Facilities Committee approved the funding in July.
Fuller, who called for a new senior center when she first took office in January 2018, hailed the recent votes by the City Council committees.
She praised the efforts local leaders — including Albright and former councilor John Rice; Jayne Colino, the head of the city’s senior services department; and Josh Morse, Newton’s building commissioner.
“Most importantly, Newtonians rallied together to create something special. Your collective advocacy at every step in the process made this all possible. Each and every one of you played an important role in getting us to this point, and you are justifiably very proud,” Fuller said.
John Hilliard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.