For the past year the seven activity centers operated by Senor Services of Van Buren County have remained closed due to health restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. But that hasn’t stopped the nonprofit’s board of directors and staff from undertaking the ambitious task of creating a new activity center that is scheduled to open later this year in South Haven.
Senior Services staff, board members and community leaders took part in an indoor “groundbreaking” ceremony on Thursday, April 1 to begin a $2.5 million renovation of the former Village Market grocery store into a new activity center. The renovated facility will replace the current Senior Center on 76th Street facility at First Baptist Church.
When renovations on the 47,000-square-foot building at 08337 M-140 Highway are complete it will house Senior Services’ central offices, pickleball courts, a kitchen, café, workshop, auditorium, craft room, dance and exercise area, five classrooms, an indoor walking trail and an expansive lending closet for medical equipment and dry food storage, according to Senior Services Executive Director Diane Rigozzi.
The building will also include space that can be leased to other businesses. Currently, Moore Pharmacy occupies one corner of the building. Rigozzi said Senior Services is also negotiating with several other businesses to set up shop in the facility.
“At this time we are in serious talks with a salon owner and a dance instructor,” she said. “There are two other office suites that could be potentially leased.”
Originally, Senior Services’ board and staff estimated renovations would cost $1 million or more, but they didn’t suffer sticker shock when finding out the cost would be $2.5 million.
“I wasn’t totally surprised by the number because I think we knew the initial estimates – before we had the plans completely drawn up – were low,” Rigozzi said. “That, along with COVID pushing lumber prices so high, we felt it was a pretty accurate number.”
Three contractors bid on the project. The low bid came from C.L. Construction of Holland.
“We checked several references and all said he comes in on time and budget,” Rigozzi said. “No one from South Haven submitted a bid.”
C.L. Construction hopes to complete renovations by October or November.
Although the new activity center in South Haven will be the largest one in Van Buren County overseen by Senior Services, it will not affect operations at the other centers, located in Bangor, Columbia Township, Decatur, Gobles, Hartford and Paw Paw.
“As excited as we are about this project, this will not take away from any other activity centers or services in the county. It is just a wonderful addition that can be used by anyone over 60 in a tax-paying jurisdiction,” Rigozzi said.
To pay for the project, Senior Services has entered into a contract with a fund development company that works with nonprofits, according to Rigozzi. “They oversee marketing, grant development and so forth,” she said. “We have several key community volunteers and staff that will be involved.”
In the meantime, Senior Services has obtained a loan from Sturgis Bank and Trust to pay for the project. “They have made it clear they want to help with this investment into our community,” Rigozzi said. “It is our hope to pay that loan off with the fundraising efforts over a two- to three-year period.”
Senior Services acquired the former Village Market grocery store building in 2019 from owner Murk Management.
“The building was almost completely donated and valued at $2.5 million,” Rigozzi said. “Senior Services paid $400,000 for the building, making the donation over $2 million.”