Southampton Select Board hires firm to design senior center

  • Southampton Town Hall.

Staff Writer
Published: 9/20/2022 12:01:42 PM
Modified: 9/20/2022 12:01:03 PM

SOUTHAMPTON — The town has enlisted an Allston-based architectural firm to complete a feasibility study to construct a new senior center.

In a 4-0 vote, the Select Board approved the recommendation of the Ad Hoc Senior Center Feasibility Committee to hire the firm, Abacus Architects + Planners. Chairperson Chris Fowles was absent.

“This committee has done a great job, as you can see, in a short amount of time, and it’s been very detailed and methodical, and thoughtful,” Select Board member Maureen “Reeny” Groden said at last Tuesday’s meeting.

The nine-member committee formed five months ago and first met as a group in April, according to Janet Cain, co-chair of the committee. Prior to the group’s formation, the Council on Aging Board researched and visited other area senior centers to get a better sense of what the minimum requirements for a growing population of seniors should be, Cain said.

Throughout the month of May and early June, the committee evaluated the viability of potential sites and properties for a future senior center. At the June 21 meeting, the committee requested that the Select Board send letters to some landowners whose property could be a viable site.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Cain acknowledged the swift pace the committee had taken over the past few months.

“We’re on a tight deadline to meet and complete the study that’s laid out in the estate of David ‘Red’ Parsons,” she said.

Parsons, who died May 17, 2021, at the age of 86, left the town roughly $2.5 million from his estate toward the construction of a new senior center, only if a feasibility study for a new facility not only includes adequate handicapped parking but also be completed within two years of his death. The will notes that the study will be funded by the estate, with the request for qualifications stipulating that the study cost $60,000 or less.

If the study is not completed by May 17, 2023, the money will be split up between four different entities, including 25% to the Shriners Hospitals for Children; 25% to the First Congregational Church of Southampton; 25% to the Southampton Historical Society; and 25% to the Southampton Council on Aging. All of the money may be used at the discretion of each entity, but be made in memory of David H. “Red” Parsons.

At the end of June, the committee finalized its request for qualifications for the selection of a designer to conduct the feasibility study for the new senior center. By August, the town received responses from five architectural firms.

In addition to Abacus, responses came from Bargmann Hendrie + Archetype Inc. (BH+A) of Boston, Caolo & Bieniek Architects Inc. of Chicopee, Catlin Architecture PC of Peterborough, New Hampshire, and EDM Architecture, Engineering and Management (EDM) of Pittsfield.

To rank the responses, Town Administrator Ed Gibson created an evaluation score sheet based on the requirements established in the request for qualifications. Each voting committee member independently scored the firms and submitted the score sheets to Gibson, so that he could compile all of the responses without discussion.

The two highest scoring firms, Abacus and EDM, were interviewed on Sept. 1. The Ad Hoc Senior Center Feasibility Committee met on Monday, Sept. 12, and voted 6-0 in favor of Abacus.

“It certainly was a difficult decision as everyone commented that either firm would be highly qualified to perform a feasibility study for Southampton,” Cain said.

Andrew LaFosse, co-chair of the committee, said Abacus was selected in part because it is recognized for its universal design principles for senior center projects, which have received multiple American Institute of Architecture awards for acceptable and inclusive design. The firm has also received the Harleston Parker Medal, which is awarded by a jury for the most beautiful piece of architecture, building, monument, or structure in Boston in the past 10 years. He also noted that one of the firm’s partners is recognized as a fellow of the American Institute of Architects, which is the highest honor that an architect in the U.S. can receive.

The firm’s conceptual design flexibility allows them to provide a range of scalable program options and their project team includes a cost-estimator for each design option.

“They’ve also made a commitment to complete the study by March 16, 2023, with all key consultants and decision-makers adhering to that schedule as well,” LaFosse said. “Again, both firms would have done a great job, but we feel comfortable recommending Abacus as our chosen firm moving forward.”

The committee’s first meeting with Abacus is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 6

Emily Thurlow can be reached at
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