Gilbert’s downtown community center has offered 80-year-old Margaret Krawitz comfort in the 20 years since her husband’s death.
"Besides my home and my cat, this is my social life," she said.
The town’s only senior center inside the building is a popular place that can easily draw 130 people in its tight dining room for lunch.
For most like Krawitz, it’s a second home. But a crammed one where wheelchairs block hallways and children attending parks and recreation programs often get mixed in, causing a little chaos.
That’s expected to change as the town plans a new community center northeast of the current one behind the new Girls and Boys Club off Gilbert and Elliot roads.
Three public forums are scheduled to get input on what residents would like to see as their current 9,500-squarefoot facility is replaced by a more spacious 16,000-squarefoot building. The old building will likely be torn down for parking or even a small park.
The new facility will offer more room for senior activities, as well as for additional classes offered through the town’s parks and recreational programs.
Senior programs will be more separated from the classes in the new center’s design, said the town’s project manager, Ray Patten, who is also the town’s building and code compliance director.
"This will give them more elbow room and be a much more efficient layout," he said.
The town hired the architectural firm Michael Wilson Kelly Architects on Oct. 11 to begin plans for the new center that could open in two years.
Construction will cost about $3.2 million, but federal grants are helping cover the expense.
The town had been debating how to expand the center for almost two years, and decided it would be more efficient to rebuild from scratch, Patten said.
The original center was built more than 20 years ago and has a variety of mismatched add-on rooms, he said.
At a recent meeting in the senior center, residents asked for a variety of amenities including a big-screen TV, a larger stage, bigger kitchen, library and exercise room.
But their biggest wish was for more space for meetings, dances and more members as the town quickly outgrows the building.
"Many people have gone to other senior centers, but they like this one too much," senior Rosie Ikeda said.
What: Community forums to discuss amenities for planned new community center
When: 7 p.m Thursday, Nov. 22 and Dec. 1
Where: Gilbert’s Community Center, 100 N. Oak St., Gilbert, near Gilbert and Elliot roads