Senior Center upgrades included in Monastery campus improvements

Senior Center upgrades included in Monastery campus improvements

Donald Leighton, senior vice president of Lincoln-based BETA Group Inc., which is working with the town of Cumberland on parks projects, showed off this map Monday of a more cohesive plan for the Monastery campus, located off Diamond Hill Road.

CUMBERLAND – While senior citizens haven’t been able to gather at the Cumberland Senior Center since March, renovations to the interior and exterior of the facility have been underway to improve the space for their eventual return.

Once complete, the upgraded facility, located at the Monastery off Diamond Hill Road, will allow staff to “be able to serve people so much easier,” Linda Teel, chief of staff for Mayor Jeffrey Mutter, told The Breeze. “The expectation is to provide a range of activities we weren’t able to support before, once COVID is behind us.”

The renovations are funded by a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant from the Rhode Island Office of Housing and Community Development, which the town received last summer.

The $500,000 grant covers a list of improvements, including the installation of a commercial kitchen to expand meal service; electrical, heating and air conditioning system upgrades; and the addition of Americans with Disabilities Act accessible doors for safe access.

Funding will also go toward constructing a foyer on the front of the building to block cold air from entering during winter months; making the front entrance more streamlined with fewer awkward turns; creating an area with seating and railings so members can wait for the bus under shelter; insulating and cladding the exterior of the building; adding an outdoor patio area with easy access to the garden, new fencing and landscaping; and resolving drainage issues and repaving sections of the parking lot for improved safety, The Breeze previously reported.

Improvements to the Senior Center are part of the town’s overall plan to create a cohesive campus at the Monastery, according to Sarah King, community outreach coordinator for the mayor’s office.

In addition to a newly renovated gazebo and a new playground at the site, King said the town received a $10,000 grant from the Rhode Island Foundation to add updated signage and lighting in keeping with the historical significance of the Monastery.

King said she’s not sure of the timeline for that project but that town officials have begun having conversations about the work including creating a granite sign similar to what’s in front of Town Hall. There are also plans to revamp the Ruth Carpenter Memorial Garden near the Hayden Center, she added.

Work at the Senior Center began earlier this spring, according to Teel. Updates so far have included a new heating system, new electrical system, completely redone bathrooms, new flooring, new ceilings, and improved lighting.

Work is continuing this week on the kitchen after it was completely gutted to allow a new, fully updated commercial grade kitchen to take its place to improve the safety and aesthetics. Crews are expected to finish up the electrical work, move the appliances in and put the room back together, which “won’t take too long,” Teel said. Coletta Contracting Company was awarded a bid for the kitchen work.

All new stainless steel appliances, including a refrigerator, freezer, stove, as well as new sinks and a new hood vent have all been delivered to the Senior Center.

According to Teel, it will be a Board of Health-approved kitchen facility and will include “all of the things that will create a professional kitchen that will serve that building.” There will be multiple sinks to wash different things including produce, dishes, and hands. “We’ll be 100 percent in compliance with the Department of Health,” she said.

A new heating system, which uses natural gas instead of oil, is safe and much more energy efficient, she said. “We were too much on a first-name basis with the oil repair company,” she said. “It’s nice to have that fixed.”

Once the kitchen is complete, Teel said they’ll move on to the exterior, which they hope to finish this fall.

Town officials have been working with architecture firm Union Studio to see what they can do to improve the facade of the building and add a new front entrance that’s ADA accessible and will make it easier for the seniors to get on and off the bus and be protected from the weather, she said.

“We’re in the process of looking at potential designs of what that might look like,” she said.

The town has written another CDBG grant requesting additional funds to spruce up the exterior of the building, Teel said, noting that they’d like to put in a proper gardening area with a shed and do some repaving to get parking straightened out.

“We’re hopeful we wrote another strong application and that we’ll be funded again,” she said, adding that they should know if they’ve received the grant in early fall.

The roof at the facility, which has been patched over time, will also have to be replaced, Teel said, to ensure that the building is sound and won’t leak into the facility.

When asked if the project has stayed on budget, Teel said they have come within the numbers or better than what they thought they would be spending. “We’re pretty happy with where we’re at,” she said.

Given the extensive renovations, Teel said town officials are not currently considering moving the Senior Center to a new location in town but that could come up down the road. “I do know the seniors like to be in that space,” she said. “It’s convenient for them. They’re emotionally attached to the building.”

“Our concern is it’s going to be such a great space, enrollment will go up. That will be the problem,” she added.

The facility received other improvements in 2019, including new flooring, bathrooms, ceilings, fresh paint, updated lighting and a larger fitness studio, paid for by a $65,000 investment previously approved by the town.

“We hope that (seniors) are happy with the space they’ll have when this is all done,” Teel said. “For many seniors, it’s their second home.”

Mike Crawley, director of the Cumberland Senior Center, located at the Monastery, points to where a new stove will be installed as part of upgrades to the facility’s kitchen this week. The whole kitchen was gutted to make way for a new, fully updated commercial grade kitchen. (Breeze photo by Melanie Thibeault)