The Princeton Senior Resource Center has become a victim of its own success.
The nonprofit group, which provides programs for Princeton’s senior citizens, has outgrown its headquarters at the Suzanne Patterson Building. The building is across the parking lot from Monument Hall – the former Princeton Borough Hall – on Stockton Street.
Last month, the Princeton Senior Resource Center closed on a deal to buy a 12,000-square-foot office building at 101 Poor Farm Road. The move allows the group to relocate its offices from the Suzanne Patterson Building, freeing up that space for use by the seniors.
With the pending move to Poor Farm Road, Drew Dyson, the executive director of the Princeton Senior Resource Center, outlined the group’s plans for the future of the Suzanne Patterson Building and the Poor Farm Road office building at the Princeton Council’s Jan. 19 meeting.
The Suzanne Patterson Building belongs to the municipality.
The Princeton Senior Resource Center is committed to expanding its facilities, and that’s why it purchased the Poor Farm Road building, Dyson told the council. While the programs have been primarily held at the Suzanne Patterson Building, the group has had to rent space around the community – even as far away as the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville, he said.
Purchasing the office building means the Princeton Senior Resource Center will not have to pay rent for off-site facilities, he said. There will be enough room at the Poor Farm Road site for administrative offices and some classrooms.
Turning to the Suzanne Patterson Building, Dyson said that in the short term, which he defined as the next two to five years, the Princeton Senior Resource Center would like to embark on a “small scale project” to convert office space into two large classrooms. He estimated the cost at around $250,000.
Asked about having the Princeton Senior Resource Center operating out of two locations – and whether the group could imagine working under one roof – Dyson said that “we were really intentional” about having two locations because one facility could not accommodate all of the programs.
Dyson pointed to the need for a gym, such as the one at the Suzanne Patterson Building, for exercise programs. It is an amenity that could not be replicated at the Poor Farm Road office building, he said.
Dividing the programs between the two sites would not affect the senior citizens’ ability to participate, because about 90% of the seniors drive to the Suzanne Patterson Building, Dyson said. There has also been some discussion about extending bus service to the Poor Farm Road site, he said.
When Princeton Councilwoman Eve Niedergang asked Dyson about the group’s ability to deliver programs if there were no renovations – whether it would be able to “muddle through” for a year or two – he replied that it would present a challenge. There would continue to be a need to rent space.
Moving the administrative staff to the office building would free up space at the Suzanne Patterson Building, eliminating the need to rent space. The rental budget is about $18,000 per year.
The Princeton Senior Resource Center needs about 18,000 square feet of space to function, Dyson said. Between the 12,000-square-foot office building and the 5,700-square-foot Suzanne Patterson Building, that need would be met.
When the meeting was opened for public comment, former Princeton Councilman Lance Liverman told the council that the Princeton Senior Resource Center has filled a vital need during the COVID-19 pandemic. The group has shifted programming from in-person to online as a stop-gap measure.
“During this time of COVID, during this time of mental anguish, we need a Princeton Senior Resource Center to be up and running strong,” Liverman said. “I know some of you are saying, ‘Why do we need to renovate the Princeton Senior Resource Center at this time?’ It is needed. The renovation is needed, the work they are doing there is needed.
“Search your heart and please support the Princeton Senior Resource Center,” Liverman said.