Court OKs senior center property

SPRINGFIELD – A probate judge ruled that the use of the Mary Noble estate for construction of a senior center is consistent with the intent of Noble’s will that the land be used for the benefit of senior citizens.
Judge David M. Fuller of the Hampden Probate and Family Court issued his decision on March 21 and the clerk released it Thursday. The city and the Westfield Housing Authority filed a “complaint” with the court on Oct. 17, 2012 seeking to have the court review the terms of Noble’s will to decide if the land on Noble Street could be used as the site of the proposed $6 million senior center. The city is asked the judge to clarify language in Noble’s will that her property, located on Noble Street, be used for the benefit of senior citizens and if construction of a senior center satisfies that requirement.
Fuller found that “Construction of a senior center on the Property comports with the general charitable intent of Ms. Mary A. Noble.”
Fuller stated in his decision that the city and Housing Authority “may deviate from the terms of the Last Will and Testament of Mary Anngenette Noble in order to construct a senior center on the Property.”
Noble’s will left the land to the Westfield Housing Authority for development of additional senior housing adjacent to the Ely-Dollan apartment complex, but no new senior housing has been constructed in the city for 30 years.
Construction, or even the concept of, senior centers was not en vogue when Mary Noble wrote her will, so the language of the will neither specifically allows nor prohibits that use.
Council on Aging Executive Director Tina Gorman said Thursday that the ruling “is excellent. I can’t tell you how ecstatic my staff is today. I’ll be notifying the (Council on Aging) board by email and will tell the seniors about it Friday.”
“We couldn’t be happier, we’re pretty excited,” Gorman said. “The architects have been waiting in the wings, doing as much as they could without a specific site, so I expect things will start moving pretty quickly.”
The city hired Diversified Project Management Inc., of Newton, to serve as the Owner Project Manager (OPM). The OPM is selected earlier in the design process to assist the city in selecting a design architect, and eventually a building contractor. The city selected a proposal submitted by two firms working in collaboration. Dietz & Company Architects of Springfield is teaming up with Courtstreet Architects of Newton, which has designed several senior centers constructed recently in the state.
“We have done some preliminary work, identifying the number of rooms and how they will be used,” Gorman said. “Now the architects have to work out how this building will fit onto the property.”
Mayor Daniel M. Knapik said that he anticipates that the design and engineering work will be done this calendar year and construction of a new 20,000-square-foot, two-story, $6 million senior center, replacing the present facility on Main Street which has insufficient space to offer seniors a greater variety of programs, will begin in 2014.
Gorman said that the building will be two stories because of the limited area of the Noble site.
“It will be two stories, and completely ADA (American with Disabilities Act) compliant, because of the parking issue,” Gorman said. “A one- story building would take up more room and limit the space available for parking.”
Brian Pearly of the Law Department, who presentefd the city’s case to Fuller last October said, “this (decision) is very exciting. The judge issued a decree finding that it is appropriate for the city to construct a senior center and be compliant with Mary Noble’s will.
“This benefits all of the senior citizens and all citizens of the city and satisfies one of the provisions of the will and continues the spirit of her intent to benefit seniors,” Pearly said.

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