The Solvang Senior Center wants a new facility to replace the small, inadequate center it currently has, but those leading the effort for a new center are unsure whether it should happen through an extensive development project by the city of Solvang and local developer Ed St. George.
According to an SSC document detailing updates on the project, the center’s leadership expects that the St. George project will take longer than they are willing to wait for a new facility.
The SSC’s board of directors first determined that the center needed a new building in 2017. Installed more than 35 years ago, the 2,700 square foot building the SSC currently operates out of isn’t large enough to serve Solvang’s senior citizens, according to center executive director Ellen Albertoni.
“When this facility started in 1983, it served our community well, it served our seniors well, but our community has grown,” she said.
The new proposal is for a 4,725 square foot permanent building used to provide senior services during weekdays. On weekends, it will host activities and programs for all ages. The center hopes for 60 added monthly hours of classes for Solvang’s seniors and new nutrition and health classes.
Under the SSC’s own plan for a new facility, it would retain the rights to the county land it occupies under a 50-year lease agreement with the county. However, if the SSC’s new facility were to be built as a part of the proposed St. George project, referred to in the document as Solvang 2.0, the organization would lose its right to the land by accommodating the development.
Last month, the city of Solvang approached the SSC to discuss Solvang 2.0. Mr. George verbally indicated that his development would allocate square footage to the SSC equal to its own building plan, according to the document.
Though the SSC says it’s “premature” to take a definite stance on the merits of the St. George proposal, its building campaign update states it isn’t sure if a new space as part of Solvang 2.0 will meet needs the organization wants fulfilled.
“Questions of major significance remain regarding its ability for us to serve our members, the affordability of such a space, and its impact on our operating budget,” the document reads.
On top of that, the center’s leaders worry that Solvang 2.0 will take years to complete due to significant community opposition to the project delaying it, and the SSC doesn’t have that kind of time.
“Our need for a new facility is within the next couple of years. The probable timing of being able to relocate into the proposed space may exceed the life of our current facility,” it reads.
In order for the SSC to consider the Solvang 2.0 version of a new facility, Mr. St. George’s development would have to clearly delineate how the city of Solvang would provide the SSC with four things: An adequate center with a design similar to the SSC’s own; a timely completion; ADA compliant parking, and the financial security the SSC has with its own plan.
The SSC’s capital campaign for a new facility has a fundraising goal of $2.5 million. Currently, the campaign’s donations exceed $450,000.