August 10, 2007
  Library Given New Life as Senior Center
Adaptive reuse doubles space and divides functions

by Heather Livingston
Contributing Editor

How do you . . . accommodate a growing population of seniors and spruce up an underused town facility at the same time?

Summary: Anticipating the needs of its aging population, the city of Odenton, Md., retained the Arlington, Va.-based firm The Lukmire Partnership to transform its former library into the newest senior center in Anne Arundel County, Md.. The firm was an easy choice for the county, says Jim Cox, AIA, partner in charge. Not only does the firm have a standing contract with the Anne Arundel County Department of Public Works, but the firm’s Annapolis office also recently completed the county’s new West County Library. Dedicated as the Catherine L. O’Malley Senior Activity Center Annex, the 6,800-square-foot facility was designed to accommodate the needs of a growing senior population, offering health, recreational, and social opportunities.

After moving the West County Library to its new and considerably larger facility, the former library building was left unoccupied. Meanwhile, the Odenton senior facility, located immediately across the street, was bursting at the seams. The senior center was experiencing “the 10 pounds of stuff in the 5-pound pail syndrome,” Cox says.

County officials decided that the best solution lay in converting the former library into a facility for seniors in anticipation of demographers’ prediction of a major boom in the number of seniors in the county. By 2030, Odenton’s over-60 population is expected to increase 83 percent over the 2005 population, state Department of Aging figures predict. Cox believes that this number may even be conservative. Citing the increase in high-density assisted living facilities in this Washington, D.C., suburban area, Cox says that the increase is happening faster than Department of Aging estimates. Even at present population levels, the O’Malley Senior Center serves between 400-500 seniors per month.

Playing to its strengths
Instead of viewing the division of the senior facility as a liability, the county decided to embrace the dual locations by separating functions and using each facility to its strength. The new facility houses staff offices and a room each for billiards, aerobics exercise, workout and weights, multipurpose activities, and arts and crafts. The multipurpose room is primarily used for meetings, dances, and community functions. The popular billiards room is used not only by visiting seniors, but also for inter-county competitions. The existing senior center offers computer courses, IT help, a small library, reading room, and administrative space.

According to Cox, the biggest challenge of the adaptive reuse project was converting the open floor plan of the old library into separated and contained areas for the varied activities that the users enjoy concurrently. “It was a complete renovation of mechanical and electrical systems as well as space planning. The old library was an open space plan and the new senior center required separation of uses from an audible standpoint as well as a function standpoint, so we had to rearrange the internal workings of the building, which of course meant new mechanical systems and electrical systems.” He notes that, in consideration of neighbor requests, alterations to the former library’s exterior were very minor. “The building was in pretty decent shape,” he says.

The late 1960s building has a brick façade with large glazed openings. Because many of the residents felt that they grew up with the library building, it has a strong community identity. “It was part of the neighborhood that we didn’t want to mess with,” explains Cox. “We didn’t wish to change that façade, so we cleaned it up, added an entrance canopy, and that was about the extent of the exterior renovations. We primarily focused on in-work.” Cox adds that although there was no LEED™ certification requirement for this particular project, Lukmire used similar materials in the renovation to what was specified for the LEED-certified West County Library.

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