Metro, Politics

NewCAL Officials Update Community on Building Plans, Project Timeline

City officials associated with the project announced revisions to several previous design plans to make parts of the New Center for Active Living (NewCAL) more accessible, including the gym, activity room, and the art room, at a meeting on Thursday.

Alex Valcarce, deputy commissioner of public buildings in Newton, said that correcting previous designs of the multi-purpose room will improve its acoustics for seniors with hearing aids.

“When you tried to divide the room you then have to create two independent loops in the floor, which are harder to integrate when you want to use the room as one and it leaves a gap,” Valcarce said. “Kind of creating this zone where, if you’re somewhat in the central location, you are not having the benefit of hearing assistance.”

NewCAL is a project that sets out to replace the former Newton Senior Center, which seniors scrutinized for not being an accessible space.

Over 300 meetings took place before Newton City Council allocated $19.5 million of funding for the development of NewCAL, according to Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller.

The building will open in 2025, according to the city’s website.

In between the closure of the Newton Senior Center and the opening of NewCAL, activities for seniors in Newton will take place in temporary facilities, including Newton City Hall. 

Valcarce gave an update on the physical building process and what the next few months will entail for the building. 

“The project will go out to bid probably within a month and a half, two months, and we’re looking to get the contractor on board before the end of the summer,” he said.

Dan Chen, principal at architecture firm Bargmann Hendrie + Archetype, Inc., is the architect for this project and talked about the importance of sustainability and accessibility for the building at a meeting in April 2022.

“One of the most important tenets, as you know, of this proposed senior center design is to provide easy access and a natural flow through the space [for] as many people as possible,” Chen said.

Chen said he prioritizes making improvements to building plans as much as possible during the adjustment period. 

“As the design of the new senior center continues forward, we hope—and will continue to look for opportunities—to improve how the building can fit better into this Newtonville neighborhood while balancing tourist spaces that are comfortable, light-filled, accessible, and functional,” Chen said.

Valcarce said that Bargmann Hendrie + Archetype, Inc. is working on the exact details of the blueprints for the project and that it plans to stay on schedule for the summer 2025 completion date. 

Officials made one upgrade to include an induction loop system, or t-coil hearing aid. Nancy Johnson, an architect at Bargmann Hendrie + Archetype, Inc., said that using the devices would make for the easiest listening experience and was highly recommended.

The t-coil program is expensive, but is most optimal for seniors to enjoy programming at NewCAL, according to Johnson.

This is the most discreet,” Johnson said. “So people who have hearing aids don’t have to have an extra device. They can just walk into the room.”

April 23, 2023