Click the headline to read each update and see the photos.
3/1/18 Steel Skeleton Nears Completion
We have reached another fantastic milestone on the Avenidas Capital Project! The steel skeleton for the addition is nearing completion, the Birge Clark Building has had the interior spaces completely renovated and now we will begin to build out the Program Spaces!
Staff has made the final touches on the interior design plans with our an Age-Friendly Design Architect, Susi Stadler, to make sure lighting is sufficient, way-finding is easy, signage is clear, and the overall experience of the new building is inviting for all ages. Meanwhile, we have rounded the corner on the homestretch of Fundraising with $1 million left to raise!
9/25/17: Demolition Crew at Work
9/5/17: WE ARE BREAKING GROUND!
Yes, the Capital Project has finally reached this major milestone. The Groundbreaking Ceremony will be held on Thursday, September 7th marking the beginning of the construction phase of the project. Staff is busy making final touches on the interior design plans which includes input from an Age-Friendly Design Architect to make sure lighting is sufficient, way-finding is easy, signage is clear, and the overall experience of the new building is inviting for all ages. Meanwhile, the fundraising effort for the project will continue. In our final To the Finish Line phase to meet the overall $18 Million goal for the campaign we ave $1.6 Million left to raise.
1/14/17: Block Party
On January 14th Avenidas held a Block Party to kick-off the community phase of the Capital Campaign. The event was open to the public and guests of all ages enjoyed a sunny day filled with Jazz music, delicious treats, kids activities and more. Amy Andonian, President and CEO, announced the Capital Campaign has raised $15.5 Million towards the $18 Million overall goal for the campaign. Ms. Andonian asked the gathered crowd to help spread the word in the community that their help is needed to raise the remaining $2.5 Million. Supervisor Joe Simitian spoke on the support the Campaign has already received from Santa Clara County and encouraged others to support this exciting project. Meanwhile, work is underway to design the programming space for the multitude of classes, workshops, lectures, and social events that are currently bursting out of our current space.
10/20/16: Palo Alto’s Architectural Review Board
Palo Alto’s Architectural Review Board today unanimously approved the design of the rear addition to the Bryant Street Center. This followed the Historic Resources Board’s unanimous recommendation at its meeting last week. Members of the ARB complimented the architects on a design that evolved in response to numerous suggestions and, as one member said, resulted in a design of “poetic beauty” that honored the historic building. The approved design reflects a number of modifications that have been made since May including third floor set-backs to reduce the massing of the addition, some alternate exterior detailing that replaces metal panels with glass, and flat tiles on the roof which now has a lower slope. There are now two open air decks on the third floor. We are turning our attention to detailing the interior of both the historic building and the new addition, and we remain on track for groundbreaking in the latter half of 2017.
5/26/16: Palo Alto’s Historic Resources Board
Palo Alto’s Historic Resources Board reviewed the revised design today. Several members complimented the team and said that this design was better and responded to concerns that they voiced last year. They made several of suggestions that we will take into consideration before returning to the HRB in late summer. We welcome your comments, too. There will be two public meetings, on June 13 at 7:00 and June 14 at 1:30, at 450 Bryant St. Please join us to learn more and tell us what you think.
3/16/16: Avenidas Revised Design
Avenidas submitted a revised design that reflects the feedback received last year from the Historic Resources Board, the Architectural Review Board, City staff and others. As before, the design aesthetic is contemporary but with elements that relate to the historic building, including a red tile roof and punched windows. The new wing will be visually separated from the historic building with a connector and the historic eaves will remain intact. The existing rear wall will become a prominent feature of the new wing, visible on the interior as well as the exterior. This design will be reviewed by both Boards in the coming weeks. We hope for design approval in 2016, paving the way to groundbreaking in 2017.
10/19/15: Palo Alto City Council Support
The Palo Alto City Council enthusiastically and unanimously approved $5 million in public funds towards the costs of renovating and updating the 88-year-old historic building. The funding will be included in the FY16 and FY 17 City budgets and the sources of the funds will be determined as each budget is developed. Meanwhile, Avenidas is developing a modified design of the new addition at the rear and expects to submit it for review by the Architectural Review Board and Historic Resources Board next year in the first quarter.
7/30/15: Preliminary Reviews
The Architectural Review Board and Historic Resources Board completed preliminary reviews of the design this week. In addition, the Park and Recreation Commission considered the proposal to build a small dining patio adjacent to the new wing in Cogswell Park. These reviews provided the opportunity for the board members and commissioners to ask questions and give feedback about the design. We are carefully considering all of the feedback and will be making changes to the design in the coming weeks, after which we plan to submit for formal design review by the same Boards.
What does the project include?
1. A new +/- 11,000 square foot wing at the rear of the building, replacing the current dining room with two floors above and an atrium
2. A complete remodel of the existing building and small classroom in the courtyard (the Garden Room)
3. Replacement and update of the old mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems
4. Seismic upgrade of the historic buildings to current standards
5. Installation of an ADA-compliant elevator
Why is it necessary to expand the 450 Bryant Street Center?
The current center is operating beyond its capacity. Last year, Avenidas served over 7,500 people and hosted 233 classes in only 5,600 square feet of program space.
And the demand for services is growing. Older adults make up the largest segment of the population; over 1/3rd of area residents are over the age of 55. By 2030, the over 55 population is projected to be 50% of the population as Baby Boomers become seniors. Avenidas must expand to remain relevant, meet the rapidly increasing need and continue to provide cutting-edge programs and services.
Why is it necessary to remodel the historic building?
The building was built in 1927 as a police and fire station and the interior spaces still reflect that use. It has never been completely remodeled to function as a community center, though the dining room was added in 1978 along with some other work. The resulting space is very chopped up, hard to get around, inefficient, and has a small number of classrooms in which programs can be offered. Staff is scattered around the building in various work areas. The elevator is not ADA compliant and is too small for a gurney.The mechanical systems are largely original. The heating and cooling system breaks often and is inefficient. The lighting is dated and inadequate and acoustics are poor in many rooms. The building does not meet current seismic standards.
How will the remodeled historic building be better?
There will be more classrooms and more space for meetings, games and social gatherings.The interior will be brighter with more glass walls and doors so you can see what's going on. Most of the staff will have work areas upstairs, where the administrative space currently is. This will free up program space. The remodeled center will feature space for the Generations Lab, a new aging+technology program that will connect older adults with technology and entrepreneurs who are creating new products to assist people to more easily and safely age in place.
What’s going to be in the new wing?
The new space will feature a three story Wellness Center specifically designed to meet the needs of older adults in spaces they find inspiring and comfortable. There will be a state-of-the-art fitness room with views overlooking the park, and a kitchen and area for cooking classes. The first-floor dining room will be re-built and will feature views onto the park and a dance floor.
What is the project’s impact on traffic and parking?
Avenidas had a traffic impact study done by Fehr and Peers in September, 2014 which found that less than 60% of our participants drive to the Bryant Street Center; 18% walk, 13% carpool, 7% take transit or a shuttle, 3% are dropped off by auto and 3% bike. The report also found that the larger building will add a negligible number of trips during the morning and evening commute hours.
As part of its lease, Avenidas has exclusive use of 27 parking spaces in the Ramona Street lot and gives permits to park there to Avenidas members. Other visitors to the Center park in other lots, on the street or in the garage across the street. We do not believe that they park in the neighborhood because those spaces are full by the time our participants begin to arrive at 9:00 a.m. and because that can involve a long walk to the Center. Avenidas pays the city for permits for all staff to park in the garage.
How is Avenidas going to address the parking requirements of the project?
Avenidas leases only the buildings and courtyard and has no land on which to build parking spaces. To meet the project's parking requirement, Avenidas will pay a fee to the Parking Assessment District. This option is available to any developer and while expensive it is the only option that is available.
Avenidas understands that the community is concerned about the increased traffic and scarcity of parking spaces in the downtown. We are making every effort to design a project that will be broadly supported by the community, and this extends to the impact that the project will have on traffic and parking.
While the parking requirement of its Center expansion project will be met with parking-in-lieu fees, Avenidas has explored opportunities to increase the number of parking spaces which could be used by its Center visitors and the public.
Recently, we developed a Transportation Plan that outlines Avenidas’ strategies to increase options for seniors to access the Avenidas Center at 450 Bryant Street, while simultaneously helping to mitigate ongoing parking and transportation issues in the downtown. By expanding our successful Avenidas Door to Door Transportation Program (which provides 4,200 rides to Palo Alto’s older residents every year), helping promote the City’s shuttle and Linkages ridesharing efforts, partnering with ride-sharing companies, and exploring alternative options with the community, we endeavor to reduce the number of single driver car trips to the Center by 20% by 2025.
Have you considered alternatives to the renovation of the historic building on Bryant Street?
Avenidas recognized almost ten years ago that it would need more space and has been studying the problem ever since. Numerous options were evaluated, including buying land and building elsewhere, renting commercial space elsewhere, building on City-owned land and renting another City-owned property. All other options were ruled out because they were either too expensive (buying land and building elsewhere or renting commercial space) or not feasible at this time (options involving City properties).
The Bryant Street Center is exceptionally well located, in a part of town where there is a density of seniors, in downtown Palo Alto adjacent to shopping and near public transportation. As part of its subsidy of services to seniors, the City of Palo Alto leases the building to Avenidas for only $1/year. Plus, we have operated at this site for almost 40 years and it is familiar to hundreds of people who regularly visit.
Why is the design of the new wing contemporary?
Because this project involves an addition to an historic building, it must conform to the Secretary of Interior Standards for Rehabilitation which state, among other things, that "the new work shall be differentiated from the old and shall be compatible with the massing, size, scale and architectural features to protect the historic integrity of the property and its environment."
There are many beautiful examples of modern design additions to historic buildings that conform to the standards. We favor this approach because we feel that a modern design will make Avenidas more relevant to Baby Boomers and because the use of glass will give the new space much better light, openness and interaction with the lovely adjacent park.
The addition is three stories but would rise only a few feet above the historic building. Altogether, it is less than 12,000 square feet and nets less than 10,000 square feet of new space for programs and circulation. We feel that a smaller addition would be financially impractical and would not add enough new space to make the project worthwhile.
Will the building be “green”?
The new wing will be designed to meet the standards of LEEDS silver certification. The historic building cannot be remodeled in the same way without altering its historic character, but it employ materials and features that will be compliant with Green Building materials and systems.
What about South Palo Alto?
We recognize that there is another concentration of seniors in South Palo Alto and many have urged us to offer programs and services in their neighborhood. We agree, and are actively working to secure some space at Cubberley. Avenidas already partners with the City to offer weekly Senior Friendship Day there, and we are also interested in partnering with other organizations to operate a community center on the Cubberley site when it is redeveloped. A few years ago we proposed a Wellness Center on that site with Abilities United and the Betty Wright Swim Center, Cardiac Therapy and the Reach program. As plans are made for the Cubberley site, we will be at the table, and we will explore other options as we discover them.
These efforts to secure permanent space in South Palo Alto are likely to accelerate next year. Avenidas is in discussion with the City of Palo Alto to temporarily relocate its operations to Cubberley during construction. We’ll keep you posted on the progress of these talks.
When do you hope to break ground and how long will construction take?
Ground-breaking is a number of months off, but we hope that it is sometime in 2017. We estimate that construction will take 18 months which is less than we originally anticipated because we have decided to relocate all operations during construction. Doing so not only shortens the construction period, but it also reduces the cost of the project and assures a safe environment for operations. Discussions are underway with the City of Palo Alto to temporarily use space at Cubberley. La Comida de California, which operates the lunch program, has identified a downtown location to relocate its operations during construction.
What will the project cost?
The current estimate is $18 million, including the in-lieu parking fee of approximately $2 million. The City will fund $5 million of the costs associated with upgrading the historic building. Avenidas has undertaken a Capital Campaign to raise the remaining funds from the community.