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Coral Gables

Coral Gables may buy space for senior center

Coral Gables leaders have started taking steps toward developing a community senior center.

The City Commission voted Tuesday to negotiate buying about 10,000 square feet of space on the ground floor of the parking garage at 83 Andalusia Ave., at a cost of $3 million, to develop the city’s first senior center. The city would retool a stretch of unoccupied retail space owned by The Palace, a luxury senior rental community across Andalusia Avenue.

The city currently holds programming for seniors at the War Memorial Youth Center, where residents participate in fitness workouts, book club meetings and other events and activities. Once a deal is struck, which City Manager Pat Salerno estimated could happen by early summer, the city would find an architect and renovate the space.

“I think this is a significant step toward serving that growing section of our community,” he said, noting that about 25 percent of Coral Gables residents are senior citizens.

A conceptual plan for the center features classrooms, a conference room and a large multipurpose room. According to the resolution passed Tuesday, the The Palace would allow those using the center to access the community’s pool and gymnasium up to twice a week for up to two hours per amenity.

Commissioners were optimistic about the prospect of building the city’s first senior center.

“I believe this is a game changer for our senior citizens,” said Vice Mayor Bill Kerdyk Jr.

Mayor Jim Cason said the center would be a centerpiece of the Neighborhood Renaissance program, an already-funded citywide plan that encompasses a host of projects including beautification, street resurfacing and construction of parks and bike paths.

Since the city already owns the land and is leasing it to The Palace, which owns the structure, a complicated set of agreements has to get squared away before moving forward.

Salerno said both parties are eager to finalize a deal.

Follow @joeflech on Twitter.

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