The growing senior population in the City was taxing the existing Community Center where many of the senior services were located. Montclair is a small city with a population of approximately 35,000 with 15% over the age of 55, and the City did not have a dedicated facility for its seniors. The Senior Center is the product of a strategic planning effort that involved several key stakeholders within the Montclair community, most notably the City of Montclair and the Montclair Community Collaborative. The MCC had a vision of constructing a facility that could provide a safe, accessible environment at a centralized location.
The $3.1 million Senior Center opened its doors in January 2011. The 8,000 square foot facility was built between the existing Community Center to the south and City Hall to the north. The Montclair Senior Center takes its cues from the mid-century look of the existing civic center with use of similar materials and linear forms; however, wood and stone were incorporated to address concerns of many seniors that the building not be too sterile. The City had a modest budget so it was a challenge to meet the many program requirements. Multi-function and flexibility was key in the design. The new Center allowed for greater access of program uses through a modifiable “Great Room,” which can be sectioned off into smaller rooms for multiple uses with minimal impact by allowing the facility to expand to a total capacity of approximately 225 for dining and nearly 300 for assembly. The remaining small pockets of outdoor space required for building setbacks were designed as outdoor private courtyard spaces with lush landscaping and fountains to create tranquil spill-out places for outdoor leisure activities.
Expandable spaces, a full service catering kitchen, outdoor courtyard spaces, and a lobby that also functions as a lounge provide a positive experience for seniors and have significantly increased the staff’s ability to serve many in the City in need. The success of the Senior Center has already been reflected in the increased number of people attending the daily nutrition program. According to the nutrition site manager, daily attendance has increased 30 percent from about 65 to between 85 and 100. The opening of Montclair's Senior Center had finally provided the community's senior citizen population with "a home of their own."