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County officials imagine possibilities for new Centre Region Senior Center

Molly Heller, center, teaches ladies how to play the game mahjong. The Centre Region Senior Center has moved from its downtown State College location to the Nittany Mall September 30, 2015.
Molly Heller, center, teaches ladies how to play the game mahjong. The Centre Region Senior Center has moved from its downtown State College location to the Nittany Mall September 30, 2015. CDT photo

For now, it’s a dreary, empty store with dirty carpeting and bare walls.

But in the coming months, this open store space in the Nittany Mall will be transformed into the new Centre Region Senior Center. County commissioners, county employees and township officials were welcomed to tour the new space Wednesday morning.

“This is an open palette here,” Commissioner Steve Dershem said, saying the new space will have the capacity to handle the seniors and the capability to host their numerous activities. He also said the mall is a natural place to host the center as it provides walking opportunities and a safe environment.

Closure of the center at its original location in downtown State College was announced in June. The center shut its doors at that location in August.

The next step in development is establishing a budget and a schedule, architect Alan Popovich said. Big ticket items have to be identified — HVAC replacements, lighting, adding a kitchen and making restrooms ADA accessible.

The hope is to have the center open by the beginning of next year, he said. Seniors have been giving input as well, telling him what features they would like to see in their center.

“We don’t want to promise what we can’t deliver,” he said.

The center typically served between 40 and 60 seniors on a given day, center supervisor Cindy Stahlman said. Since word of the move was announced, the center has gained 55 new participants in the past month.

“I think one of the issues they may have to deal with is people from around the county,” Commissioner Chris Exarchos said. “We may see people coming in from other regions. It makes sense — it’s a great location, it’s easy to shop and there’s easy parking.”

Office of Aging Director J.R. Reed said he thought the new center had great potential and the new location was more senior-friendly.

“It was a great relationship downtown, the space we had down there,” he said, “but I think we outgrew it.”

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