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HUD approves $1.76 million loan for senior center

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published July 29, 2015

 Seniors fill the St. Clair Shores Senior Activity Center at a Thanksgiving event last year.

Seniors fill the St. Clair Shores Senior Activity Center at a Thanksgiving event last year.

File photo by Kristyne E. Demske

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ST. CLAIR SHORES —A bigger fitness center with a walking track, an office that’s compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act and a café addition to the kitchen are all dreams that could come true for the St. Clair Shores Senior Activity Center now that the federal government has approved a loan to finance renovations.

An announcement from U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, and Gary Peters, D-Michigan, stated that the St. Clair Shores Senior Activity Center had been approved for a $1.76 million loan through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“This center is an important resource for seniors in St. Clair Shores who are staying active and engaged in the community,” Stabenow said in a press release.

“It’s been a couple-year process, but we’re extremely excited,” said St. Clair Shores Mayor Kip Walby. “We’re taking a building that works well and just enlarging it, and just making it even more efficient.”

Senior Center Director Sue Fickau said that they would like to enhance the kitchen and create a café space with grab-and-go items for those members who don’t necessarily want to follow the Area Agency on Aging model of one full meal served at 11 a.m. each day. Another addition to the center would be a lifelong learning space where classes or courses could be taught.

Fickau said the highlight of the renovations would be an approximately 2,000-square-foot addition to the fitness center and a walking track, and the center also is in need of a visible welcome center. The center’s offices are not ADA-compliant, something that would be remedied with the renovations.

“This loan will allow the senior center to make important renovations ... to ensure they can continue to provide the great activities, services and sense of community that help St. Clair Shores seniors lead healthy, active lives,” Peters said in the release.

The center has 1,300 members, and 52 percent of members qualify in the low-to-moderate income bracket required for the center to receive Community Development Block Grant funding from HUD. The Section 108 loan from HUD can be paid off using 15 percent of the city’s CDBG grant annually over a period of 20 years; the loan has an interest rate of less than 1 percent.

Fickau said she was humbled by all the work that city staff and administration put in to secure the loan for the center.

“They could have put the dollars to other use,” she said. “My hope is we grow into this building and not grow out of it right away.”

Fifty-one percent of St. Clair Shores residents qualify to use the center, Fickau said, which is open to those 50 years old and older.

Walby said the city still has to get engineered drawings and plans, as well as bid out contracts for the work.

“This was the first step. We didn’t want to put the cart before the horse,” he said. “We’re months down the road before the shovel goes in the ground, if not early spring.”

The work will be done in phases to minimize disruption to the center, Walby said, although they have not decided what portion would be constructed or renovated first.

“We’re very excited, and I think it will be worth it,” he said. “Once we have it all done, I think we’ll really see the value of the improvements.”

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