CDBG Good Stories - Centralia Center
Centralia Center (A Senior Resource Center)
Seniors attain milestone after all "THEIR" years! A multi-use facility puts in commission a 80,000 square foot vacant big-box retailer building.
The City of Wisconsin Rapids, Wood County, Wisconsin
City officials and concerned citizens of this central Wisconsin city have been working for years to replace or upgrade the community's senior citizen center, which was inadequate in size and not up to code, to serve all senior citizens and offer a wide variety of services specific to their needs. At the same time, local officials have been wrestling with the presence of an 80,000 square foot building centrally located in the community that was vacated by Wal-Mart in favor of a bigger site on the outskirts of the City. The building, valued at $1.2 million, sat vacant for several years.
Somewhere along the line, some creative thinking took hold and the two issues, one being the lack of an adequate senior citizen center and the other being the presence of a huge vacant building in the downtown area, started to be addressed concurrently. The prohibitive costs of new construction, and the lack of a suitable and affordable centrally located site, forced the senior center proponents to re-evaluate existing options. One was the reuse of the 80,000 square foot building. Although additional space was needed for the senior center, it by no means needed this amount of space.
Rather than develop a senior center with the traditional basic services of meals, periodic health maintenance clinics (like blood pressure screening) and related services, it was decided to pursue pooling under one roof a wide range of senior citizen services. This would minimize the seniors' reliance on limited public or private transportation to get to other offices or agencies. As a result, a larger space was now more attractive and the formerly vacant "big box" was more appealing.
The City, through aggressive and persistent negotiations, was able to purchase the vacant building for $400,000. Since the 80,000 square feet was too big for even their expanded plans for a senior center, further brainstorming by the team planning the facility resulted in the idea of leasing some of the square footage to generate revenues for operations and maintenance. The end result was the development of 45,000 square feet of the center for senior citizen use and for the provision of services for the seniors, including accommodations for a county office that serves senior citizens and a resource library containing materials related to the needs of seniors as well as their families and caregivers. Also placed in the center is an adult day care service, which also serves handicapped seniors. The remaining space was leased and is now occupied by a Montessori school (providing intergenerational contacts), a health promotion center, a hearing aid service, a home care hospice office and a community access agency.
A notable spin-off to the redevelopment of the old Wal-Mart building was the revitalization of an adjacent shopping mall. The mall was in a state of decline, in part because of the loss of the Wal-Mart next door, but revitalization of the vacant Wal-Mart building prompted a local investor to purchase the Mall. The Mall at one time was connected to the vacant building. The development of the Wal-Mart building into a facility that would attract people to the area made it easier for the new Mall owner to attract new tenants. Today, many of the vacant store fronts in the Mall are now occupied and the owner has re-opened the corridor connecting the Mall with the new senior center, called the Centralia Center.
The project accomplishes many things. It meets the needs of the area senior citizen population, it eliminates a blighting influence in the area, it spurs private investment in the area, and it is bringing businesses and traffic back to the once floundering downtown area.
|Content Archived: May 25, 2011|