Hopewell Township’s plan for a new Hopewell Valley Senior and Community Center is taking its next step as officials move ahead with the design phase of the future project.
Officials recently announced a request for proposal (RFP) soliciting initial bids and proposals from contractors for the new project. Those initial proposals are due to the township by Sept. 3.
The new center would not just serve as a recreation facility for all Hopewell Valley residents, but as the new building for seniors which would replace the Hopewell Valley Senior Center, located on Reading Street in Pennington Borough. The building, over the years, has been deteriorating and plagued with needed repairs.
The senior center faced a complete shutdown in 2018.
“I think this new center is tremendously important for our seniors. Already the programming that we offer our seniors cannot be held in that one location alone, because it is simply not big enough to handle it,” Mayor Kristin McLaughlin said. “Prior to the pandemic there was an exercise class that would take place in the municipal court room. We are looking forward to having a place where everyone can come together and expand our options for our seniors.”
Township officials are preceding with the assumption that the location for the project is going toward a site at the Zaitz property behind ShopRite in Pennington.
“It is always a possible during the course of our design work that another location may come up, but I think the township committee has collectively expressed it’s support for a site at that location,” Township Committeeman Kevin Kuchinski said. “Some of the benefits of location are that some of the parties will be required to bring the supporting utilities, whether that be water or sewer capacity, and do the rough grading work, which lowers the ultimate construction cost for the new facility.”
The Zaitz tract property falls behind ShopRite on Pennington Road off of Route 31.
“[It is] the geographical center of our population. In terms of population it is a central location,” McLaughlin said. “We think off of Route 31 there will be good access. That was definitely important to our seniors.”
Officials indicated that to fund this project, the township is looking to use public funding and grants from Mercer County for recreation and seniors. Additional private dollars and membership dues would also fund the new center. The township will also work with either a non-profit or another player, likely a nonprofit, to run the recreation facility, Kuchinski said.
“We do see a role for other groups to join us. None of those details have been worked out. A good portion of this is project is public funding,” McLaughlin said. “We do hope over time that it will be kind of self-propagating. There is room for other organizations to partner with us.”
The facility amenities would include an indoor competitive lap pool and a warmer therapeutic pool.
“We believe this is more than two pools and a senior center. We are looking at a more comprehensive recreational facility, whether that includes gym equipment, indoor track, multi-purpose sports court and other multi-purpose exercise rooms,” Kuchinski said. “That is what this next phase of work is really intended to help shape.”
According to the township, once a contract is awarded, there will be a multi-phase program to guide the design work. The program will include a steering team of township professionals, committee members, advisory board members and other representatives of the community who will also participate in the process.
“It starts with additional formalized community outreach. We try to finalize what are the key programming needs for the center and what are the needs of our seniors; such as what are the needs of the senior lunch program that we run through Mercer County and what are indoor recreation needs,” Kuchinski said. “We have heard quite quickly early on for the need of indoor aquatic space. I think the swimmers are amongst the last athletes that have to travel to off-site facilities, and in some cases some of the issues they had at the former facility, even out of township.”
The program’s initial focus is designed to provide for more in-depth input on programming.
“The programming phase will then lead to a design and collecting phase. I talked to Mark Kataryniak, community development director and township engineer, earlier. He estimates that on an aggressive end we will need six months, more conservatively it can be nine months for the design process,” he said.
Pennington Borough and Hopewell Borough officials will be able to continue to provide input in the design phase for the new senior and community center project. Kuchinski said Hopewell Township will let them decide on what level of input they want to have in the process.
“Last year we were so focused on getting the affordable housing settlement finalized. The Community Center is kind of tied to the project at the Zaitz tract property,” McLaughlin said. “The dream phase for this new center has been going on for awhile. Post COVID-19, when people can finally come back together safely indoors, I believe there will be even more excitement for a recreation facility for Hopewell Township and Hopewell Valley.”