ASTORIA — Housed in a former car sales showroom, the Astoria Senior Center is being renovated to better serve the Astoria community.
Scott / Edwards Architecture LLP, a Portland based firm, has re-imagined the building as a light-filled, inviting facility.
Local architect Eino E. Isaacson designed four Art Moderne style structures within Astoria’s downtown. The sleek, stream-lined buildings retain a contemporary feel nearly 70 years after their construction. His buildings included Astoria Bottling Works (Sunset Empire Transportation), Rambeau Motors (Lower Columbia Bowl), the Maki Building (Bargains Galore) and Northwest Nash, Inc. (Astoria Senior Center).
The Northwest Nash building served as the Astoria Public Library from 1958 through 1966. It became the Astoria Senior Center in 1984.
The senior center’s beginnings can be traced to a Catholic nun, Sister Patricia. A passionate advocate for the elderly, she once said, “Older people have a wealth of wisdom and experience that young people can’t even imagine.”
Longtime residents may remember Sister Patricia’s KMUN radio program featuring interviews with Astoria’s older denizens. In 1976, she coordinated and opened Astoria’s first senior citizens drop-in center.
Visitors to the renovated building will notice additional windows, more volume and an ordered, efficient plan. Rather than “making do,” the building will finally make sense and be comfortable for its occupants.
Where cinder blocks once filled original openings, multi-pane aluminum windows now flood rooms with light. Where garage doors were reduced in size or completely covered, new windows will recreate a historic sensibility.
It will be alluring, too. The entire storefront system will remain. Pedestrians walking passed the building’s front will see a reception area, pool room and craft room. Perhaps most exciting, a period-looking neon sign will be mounted above the main entry.
Inside, a new dining room will seat more than 140 people. Food will be prepared in an adjacent, modern kitchen. Miller says he is raising money for new tables and chairs. The center’s GoFundMe site is currently accepting donations.
The building’s energy consumption will be reduced thanks to several features. Heat loss through the roof is reduced by 4” of insulation covered by a white, PVC membrane roofing. Reinforced concrete perimeter walls also received insulation. Heating is provided by high-efficiency single stage natural gas furnaces.
Florescent lights were converted to LED… enabling the center to take advantage of financial incentives from the Energy Trust of Oregon.
Finally, double-pane windows are used throughout.
Al Jaques is acting as the city’s project manager. He most recently managed the construction of the Columbia Memorial Hospital Field. Jaques oversees the work of several local contractors including Clatsop Electric, JP Plumbing and Big River Construction. Skyward Construction, Inc., of Ridgefield, Jet Fire Protection of Salem and HVAC, Inc. of Milwaukie are also a part of the team.
The senior center has operated within the Northwest Nash Co. building for three decades. Rather than move to a new location or build a new building, Miller said its nearly 500 members prefer to stay where they are and renovate the building. Many seniors, he claimed, live in the Owens-Adair Apartments, Astor Hotel or nearby houses. Driving to another location isn’t an option.
The center is temporarily located at the old Yacht Club on Youngs Bay. Miller said member participation has dropped because the structure is too far from Astoria’s core.
“We expect our numbers will go up again when we return to the original building,” he said. “It’s a home-away-from-home for many people.”
For more information about renovating an old home or commercial building, visit the Lower Columbia Preservation Society website at www.lcpsweb.org