County officials broke ground on the long-anticipated South DeKalb Senior Center on Nov. 15. It is being built at 1931 Candler Road, on the site of the old senior center that was recently demolished.
The 15,000-square-foot facility will have a computer lab, a fully equipped fitness room, access to walking trails, and senior sitting areas both inside and around the grounds.
Willie M. Ware, who has been a member of the center for almost seven years, said she is just thanking God for the new facility.
“I am asking the good Lord to keep us so we can enjoy it,” said Ware, who will be 75 on Dec. 21.
Shirley Jerry, a DeKalb Senior Center member since 2004, said she is excited to finally see the project under way.
“It’s going to be great,” Jerry said. “We need the space. With a larger facility we can do more things.”
DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis, who joined Commissioners Larry Johnson, Kathie Gannon and Lee May and other elected officials for the ceremonial ground breaking, said they promised three senior centers and broke ground on two of them this week.
The DeKalb Board of Commissioners awarded the $3.3 million contract to construct the center to Possibility Construction Inc. on Aug. 15.
Though it was a chilly 51 degrees during the ground breaking, Ellis said he felt warm.
“It warms my heart to be here for this occasion,” he said.
A day earlier on Nov. 14, county officials broke ground on a similar senior center at 3393 Malone Drive in Chamblee.
The centers will be built at a cost of $5 million each and are funded by federal block grants.
“This is your federal tax dollars at work,” Ellis said.
Johnson, who has represented Commission District 3 where the center is located for 10 years, said it was a long time coming.
“This is a fitting tribute to our seniors,” he said. “We want to make things better on Candler Road.”
Johnson asked the seniors to continue to be vigilant and to hold them to their promise.
Gannon, whose Super District 6 includes Candler Road, thanked the seniors for their participation in the process to create the center.
“You deserve a place to come together and relax,” she said.
The new center is designed in the style of the new Scott-Candler Library next door, which opened in August.
Gannon pointed out that when the center, whose design is complementary to the library, is completed, the twinning of both buildings will make that section of Candler “the most outstanding corner” in the county.
The new center is part of the mixed-use development plan for Candler Road.
Senior housing also is planned along Candler Road, and Chris Morris, the county’s Community Development director, said that a private developer has been identified for the housing component.
Johnson said a park is planned as well.
Among the features of the new facility is a main dining hall seating up to 120 people for dining. The space will be easily converted into a meeting space for educational seminars and civic events.
There will be activity rooms for ceramics, billiards and board games like chess, bridge and backgammon. A large social lounge will be included in the new facility, which will have a commercial kitchen.