A group of senior citizens overwhelmingly picked a Central City Park site Wednesday as the place they want to locate the new Macon-Bibb County Senior Citizens Center.
Attendees at two forums voted 78-28 in favor of a 3-acre site inside the park. That site beat out a larger plot of land just outside Central City Park that was once home to Atlanta Gas Light.
Several seniors said Wednesday they chose the plot of land inside the park because of convenience. The other site would require senior citizens to walk across Seventh and Walnut streets to get into the park.
Like the majority of those attending Wednesday’s forums, Alice Floyd and Josephine Jones favored the site inside the park.
“You don’t have to worry about crossing the street because it’s dangerous,” Floyd said. “We would already be in the park and have plenty of walking space to be able to move around.”
In two weeks, the preliminary architectural designs will be presented to the Macon-Bibb County Commission.
The former Department of Motor Vehicles building would be torn down to clear room for the center. The designs will incorporate input from seniors with space for certain programs such as music and aerobics as well as amenities like a walking trail, track and patio.
Already there is $2.7 million set aside for the project, including $2 million in special purpose local option sales tax money and $750,000 from a land swap with Mercer University. Commissioner Elaine Lucas has said officials are likely to find an additional $300,000 for the project to put the budget close to $3 million.
“Mayor (Robert Reichert) and commissioners are still working to get that funding together,” said Bruce Morris, project manager with architectural firm Sizemore Group. Morris said $3 million would probably be enough money to build an 11,000-square-foot center.
Construction could begin within six to seven months after a process that involves completing designs, bidding out the project and receiving final approval from the County Commission, said Clay Murphey, Macon-Bibb’s SPLOST project manager.
Other improvements to Central Park are on the way with $4.2 million being spent on a new skate park and track, renovations of two ball fields and other changes. Those upgrades would tie in well with a new senior center, said Reggie Moore, the Recreation Department’s interim director.
“My goal is to have one beautiful, state-of-art center that everyone from north, south, east and west (Macon-Bibb County) can use,” he said.
The location of the new senior center has been controversial as some seniors had voiced their displeasure with earlier proposals at the Bloomfield Recreation Center and the former A.L. Miller School. Some seniors identified Central City Park as a site they were interested in because of its downtown location and proximity to medical care.
To contact writer Stanley Dunlap, call 744-4623 or find him on Twitter@stan_telegraph.