SALEM — Few people would argue with the idea that a new senior center is needed in Salem. Yet residents — and city councilors — are divided over plans to locate it in a public/private development planned for a vacant lot at the intersection of Boston and Bridge streets.
The current facility, at 5 Broad St., is cramped, lacks sufficient parking and needs millions of dollars in repairs. So in 2009, after a previous proposal to put the senior center on the former St. Joseph Church site, the City Council approved a plan to build a new community center as part of the Boston/Bridge Street development. New taxes from the private portion of the building would be used to offset the city’s costs.
The council will discuss a new financing proposal — the last hurdle for the project — tonight at 6:30 at the Senior Center, 5 Broad St. But both sides expect it will reopen the controversial issue of whether to build it there at all.
The Salem News caught up with people downtown yesterday to ask how they felt about the project. Add your own thoughts at www.salemnews.com.
“I understand why the mayor’s concerned. ... The current facility doesn’t seem to be up to par. She’s really trying her best,” he said. “I wish (the Boston/Bridge location) were on a bus route. It’s the best they can do for the moment.”
Computer animator, Salem
Bowker has contacted his city councilor, Michael Sosnowski, and his neighbors to urge their support of the Boston/Bridge street project. Bowker used to live two doors down from the Senior Center on Broad Street, and the building “is literally falling down around their ears,” he said.
“It’s an investment, like any other — schools, roads, etc. Also, it sends a signal that our city is moving forward and is in fact investing in the future,” he said. “It’s a perfect place to anchor that end of Bridge Street. You need something there to signal that this is a viable city to live or work in. Right now, (that area) is kind of a desert. This would be a big signal that the city is moving in another direction.”
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Doran has given manicures at the Senior Center, and her grandmother uses its services. A new facility is much-needed, she said.
“That’s such an eyesore over there (at Bridge/Boston), it would be nice to put something there,” she said. “They don’t have the room (at 5 Broad St.) to do what I think they can do for the senior citizens.”
Filmmaker, lives in Peabody and works in Salem
Hallinan, who often drives by the Boston/Bridge Street location, said the new senior center should go in a location more accessible to walkers.
“The (Bridge/Boston Street) location is quite awful. It’s not pedestrian-friendly,” he said. “Where we put our elders, what does that say about our family, our community? Do we want them on the outskirts? That location is not pedestrian-friendly, it doesn’t encourage elders to get out into the community. I feel they would be isolated.”