Senior center may be included in proposed Linn County Public Health building

Proposal would bring county's senior services back to a central hub

The current Witwer Senior Center is in the 600 block of Second Avenue SE in downtown Cedar Rapids. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
The current Witwer Senior Center is in the 600 block of Second Avenue SE in downtown Cedar Rapids. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — As Linn County officials plan for a potential new Public Health building, efforts are being made to ensure that no stone is left unturned in terms of possible services housed in the building.

On Wednesday, the Linn County Board of Supervisors discussed with the county Older Adult Advocacy Group the possibility of including a senior center in the building, which is proposed to be as big as 50,000 square feet and also house Linn County Public Health Center and the county’s Child and Youth Development Services.

Phil Wasta, executive director with MedQuarter, who spoke at Wednesday’s meeting, which drew more than 30 people, said including a senior center within the building would bring senior services back to a central hub, something that has been missing since the Witwer Center was flooded in 2008.

“Cedar Rapids is the largest city in Iowa without a center,” he said, noting that to the south, Iowa City’s Senior Center is celebrating 35 years in the community this year. “We would like to celebrate our first year.”

As the plan comes together for the new building, which would sit on a plot of county-owned land at 1019 Seventh St. SE. and likely require a levy of 6 cents per $1,000 to build, county officials hope to communicate with all interested parties, including the Older Adult Advocacy Group.

“Our planning process will be very aggressive, so it would be important for any information that you have in terms of activities, space needs and funding those kinds of things, we would want to see those as soon as we possibly could,” Supervisor Linda Langston said to group officials.

As the county fleshes out the plans for the projected $10 million building, leasing, possible tenants and square footage will all be discussed.

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Older Adult Advocacy Group includes a number of local agencies such as the Heritage Area Agency on Aging, Abbe Health Center and Horizons, A Family Service Alliance.

By joining a senior center with a public health department, group officials hope to create a modern space for programming, educational opportunities and a public/private collaboration.

They say bringing services back to a central hub also will benefit the community, which has seen senior services and programs spread out to multiple sites after the close of the Witwer Center.

As plans come together for the new county building, Supervisor Ben Rogers stressed the importance of making the most of the possibilities.

“This is one of those natural sort of synergies that makes sense and we do have the opportunity to build something special,” he said. “We don’t get opportunities like this every now and then.”

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