West Chester finds temporary home for displaced senior activities. What’s next?

Senior programming that has been displaced by the sale of the West Chester Activity Center for a new Kroger location is moving temporarily to the MidPointe Library.

West Chester Twp. trustees unanimously approved the $1.8 million sale of the township’s Activity Center that houses senior programming late last month to clear the way for a giant Kroger Marketplace. The center will close for good on Thursday, according to township Public Information & Engagement Director Barbara Wilson.

She said staff have been working with community volunteers and seniors about their priorities and interests. West Chester focused on three qualities when looking for an alternative gathering space for the 50-70 senior citizens who visit the Activity Center regularly, accessibility, consistency and programming, and the library has them all, officials said.

“Change is always difficult, but the library feels like a winning combination of beautiful indoor and outdoor space welcoming to the type of gathering and fellowship the seniors enjoy at the Activity Center, and with friendly staff prepared to make them feel at home,” Wilson said.

Nancy Williams and her husband Jack led a group of seniors who have been working with the township to find a new home for their programming, after it was discovered in January Community First Solutions would not be renewing the lease at the Activity Center and the programs would end.

RELATED: West Chester’s Activity Center just one piece of Kroger’s plans for new Marketplace

“It’s been a really long road, and emotional road for everybody,” she said. “Trying to keep them happy and trying to find a place, so yes I think in the interim right now the library will be good.”

MidPointe Branch Manager Amy Young said the library is happy to welcome the seniors. The group will be gathering every Monday and some Wednesdays and Thursdays through the end of the year. She said they will have use of the community rooms when they aren’t booked with other programs and they’ll have the run of the entire library.

The physical activities, like wheelchair volleyball and fitness classes, moved to Chesterwood Village.

The seniors used to get hot lunches at the Activity Center but Williams said the meals stopped last February or March. For now, meals will be restricted to a couple of holiday pot luck events, Young said.

“We’re just trying to work together and get them some good space and some good times and make sure that camaraderie stays,” Young said.

The library is a temporary measure while the trustees wrestle with the bigger issue of a more permanent solution.

The township is looking into retrofitting the walk-out basement of the Muhlhauser Barn with HVAC for the senior programming. Trustee Board President Mark Welch said they could take proceeds from the sale of one nonperforming asset and enhance another. He said it would have cost the township about $200,000 to make repairs on the Activity Center and he thinks it might cost the same or a bit more to fix up the barn.

“We are doing some studies to make sure it’s going to be suitable and it would be able to meet the demands the seniors would put on it,” Welch said. “You can imagine quite a bit of this is the numbers and we really don’t have any numbers yet, so we want to get in and see what it might cost if we put it out for competitive bid.”

West Chester Plaza owner Regency Centers was the only group to submit a proposal for the Activity Center. The acquisition would allow for a new 95,545-square-foot Kroger to replace an existing location, and the grocery giant and retail center owners have even bigger plans to build a 117,166-square-foot Marketplace if other pieces come together.

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