Pittsburgh officials announced a proposal to buy the building that houses the West End Healthy Active Living Center.
The building at 80 Wabash St. has been home to the senior center for 21 years. The property would remain a senior center after Pittsburgh purchases it.
For the past 21 years, the city has had a $60,000 annual lease with Smith & Bowen, which owns the property. Under the proposal, the city would buy the site for $344,000, plus acquisition costs, which would bring the total cost to the city to $374,000. City officials estimated that the lease payments would pay off the property within six years.
The Department of Public Works will team up with the Department of Parks and Recreation, which manages the city’s senior centers, to renovate the building over the next several years to expand senior programming.
“The center has become an integral part of our community, including serving as a food distribution site during the middle of the pandemic,” City Council President Theresa Kail-Smith said, extending her thanks to the senior center workers who “make this senior center a home away from home for our older neighbors.”
The property owners had been considering selling the building, Kail-Smith said, and people at the center worried that could translate to instability for their programs or a potential relocation could force some seniors to travel farther for such services.
Buying it, Kail-Smith said, offered the senior center more stability.
“The benefit is it will actually pay for itself,” she said.
The center serves hundreds of seniors, offering weekly programming such as senior meals, instructor-led workshops, crocheting, painting, exercise activities and more. Through a program with Allegheny County, the West End Healthy Active Living Center distributed 70 free laptops, and the center is currently hosting computer classes.
Throughout the pandemic, the center has served 12,620 meals to qualifying seniors.
“The purchase of the West End Senior Center facility and adjacent property will afford the city an opportunity to reimagine what this center and its offerings might look like in the future,” said Louann Horan, Department of Parks and Recreation assistant director of senior programming. “Expanded programming, access to additional services and a thriving community of senior members is what we hope to realize. Acquiring this property allows us to think more creatively and strategically about delivering improved services and support to our seniors.”