The Harkenrider Center building is almost complete, but Hermiston seniors will have to wait until August or September before they can move in.
Commercial kitchen equipment and other furnishings will be installed once the building is finished in April, and city manager Byron Smith said the city can’t work on creating the extensive parking area planned for the center until the construction site around the building is cleaned up.
“We need to do parking improvements, and we need to get the construction guys out of the way before we can do that,” he said at the start of a tour given to the city council Monday night.
Before the tour Willard Fordice, the director for the senior center, told the Hermiston Herald that the seniors had been hoping to start having meals at the center during the spring or summer after moving all of their equipment and furniture in, but once the decision was made to wait to do the parking lot until the building was done, the opening date was moved back for safety reasons.
“We can’t bring seniors across the muddy parking lot,” he said.
When complete, the single-level parking lot with a bus drop-off and extra handicapped spaces will stretch through what is currently Ridgeway Avenue and the crumbling upper and lower lots behind the Hermiston Public Library.
While Fordice said the seniors have been waiting a long time for the new building, the good news is they will have lots to put in it once it is complete. They have been successful in securing grants for equipment to fill the large commercial kitchen, and are working on more grants for other types of furnishings and improvements.
“Everything has come through so far,” he said.
Fordice joked that the equipment from the old center was so old it “came over on the Mayflower” and should have been replaced years ago. Now the group will have new refrigerators, freezers, stoves and a commercial dishwasher to handle the senior center’s twice-a-week meals and other events.
After the old senior center was torn down as part of the sale of the former fairgrounds on Orchard Avenue to Hermiston School District, most of what was inside was put into storage. The seniors will soon begin sorting through to see what will be re-used in the new building and sell the rest in a yard sale.
The new building is 7,000 square feet, with a 4,000 square foot unfinished daylight basement. During Monday’s tour, city recreation director Brandon Artz showed off the spacious great room complete with fireplace, offices, restrooms, breakout rooms and a large back deck.
“The LED lighting out here, when it gets dark out, it’s beautiful on the exterior,” he said, noting that the deck and landscaped back yard would be a “nice draw” for people. Under the terms of the $2 million federal Community Development Block Grant the Harkenrider Center must be used only for activities for seniors for the first five years, but after that could be used in the evenings for things like receptions and recreation classes. The city hopes to create a second reception hall in the basement as well.
On Friday, parks and recreation director Larry Fetter said one of the reasons for the decision to finish the parking lot separately is because none of the block grant money is going towards it. He said the senior center board had done a good job of fundraising for kitchen equipment and the city would help where it could with moving things into the building.