A building that once housed a large South Haven grocery store will soon open as the largest senior activity center in Van Buren County.
Senior Services of Van Buren County plans to open its new, multimillion-dollar facility in early 2022, according to Diane Rigozzi, executive director of the agency that serves seniors in most of the county.
Rigozzi and members of the Re-Imagine Capital campaign committee gave members of the media a tour of the 47,000 square foot facility on Tuesday.
Located along the M-140 highway, just south of Aylworth Avenue, the building once housed the village market and Moore’s Pharmacy. The pharmacy, located in the south corner of the building, still exists, but the rest of the interior part of the building bears little resemblance to the old grocery store.
A reception area has replaced the counter where alcohol and cigarettes used to be sold. A well-lit ADA-accessible lunch counter that seats 30 lines one wall in an area once occupied by the store’s floral section. The dining room, with booths and tables that can accommodate an additional 125 people, is in the former deli section, while an adjoining area in the former bakery area can accommodate 225 guests for larger dinner parties.
Three regulation-size enclosed pickle ball courts have been constructed at the rear of the building which once housed the meat and poultry departments, while a theater/auditorium – seating up to 175 people – is located near an area of the store that was once occupied by the dairy and wine departments.
The center now houses offices for senior service staff, a large technology classroom, a dance studio, a craft room, a loan closet for seniors in need of medical equipment, and classrooms / offices that can be rented to businesses that cater to seniors.
“Moore Pharmacy, which anchors one end of the building, is perfectly suited to the needs of older people,” Riggozi said. “We will also have a salon and day spa anchored at the other end of the building.”
The new senior activity center has a marked walking path that goes around the perimeter of the interior of the building.
“We called it the flagship of senior centers,” said Rosalie Plechaty, chair of the committee overseeing the capital improvement project.
To respond to needs
The new activity center was designed to meet the needs of the programs offered at the existing senior center and to be marketed for use by community groups for large or small gatherings.
Reconstruction of the interior of the building began in April and is supervised by CL Construction.
“I’m really surprised how far this (rebuilding) has come with COVID-19,” said Barbara Bowman, an advisor at Dickerson Baker, who helps with the fundraising campaign.
Rising construction costs and supply issues, as well as the overhaul of sanitary arrangements during the pandemic, played a role in driving up the cost of the project.
In April, Senior Services estimated the price of the rebuild at $2.5 million. However, the cost is now $3.2 million.
“Some things changed along the way,” Rigozzi said. “For example, we were originally going to keep the old lighting and ceiling panels, but we decided to switch to LED lighting and new panels and all the lights in the parking lot, which cost more than $150,000.”
Senior Services has secured funding for the project, but will need to raise funds to repay the loan.
It does this by offering businesses and groups the opportunity to sponsor various rooms and sections of the activity center. Some groups have already come forward.
The Sturgis Bank sponsored the walking trail, while an anonymous donor gave $100,000 to pay for the creation of the large loan closet.
A wall in the activity center in the dining room will house a large three-dimensional mural acknowledging donors. The mural will be created by South Haven artist Kayla Wyszynski Ridley, who plans to design it as a tree accented by metal-like leaves that can each be sponsored by donors.
The general public will be able to view the near-complete activity center during an open house from 10 a.m. to noon on October 23.
For more information on fundraising donations, call 637-3607 or donate online at SeniorServices-VBC.org. For more information, contact Rosalie Plechaty at firstname.lastname@example.org or Diane Rigozzi at email@example.com