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Why would Lincoln build a new Community Center rather than use existing buildings?

Lincoln has known for a long time that Bemis Hall is not an appropriate building for the Council on Aging & Human Services (COA&HS):

  • A 2008 needs assessment “determined that Bemis Hall not be the long-term home for the COA.”  (Since that assessment, the Lincoln senior population has increased by 50%.)
  • In 2012, the Community Center Feasibility Committee (CCFC) concluded about Bemis Hall that it was “not built to be a modern senior center with myriad programs and services.”
  • The CCFC reiterated in a 2013 follow-up that Bemis is “not well suited for a senior center.”
  • In February, 2015, the Community Center Study Committee (CCSC) reported that, “compared with neighboring towns, the quality, size and condition of Lincoln’s COA facility is vastly inferior, and its physical deficits limit the programs and services which can be offered to elders.”
  • The CCSC provided additional detail about the shortcomings of Bemis Hall: “the interior space does not allow for congregate meals, a significant drop-in area, adequate and confidential office space for staff and volunteers, private restroom locations, or all programming needed to meet the needs of Lincoln’s growing population of older adults.”
  • In 2018, the Community Center Preliminary Planning & Development Committee wrote more broadly that:

Doing nothing to provide adequate facilities for the COA, PRD [Parks & Recreation Department], and community organizations is not an option.  The physical plants of both Bemis Hall and the pods continue to age, and it makes no sense for the Town to continue to expend scarce tax dollars to fix up, patch up and make do with facilities that do not suit their purpose.  Just as important, every year that these departments and organizations are not able to provide the range of activities and programs that are standard in other towns and are located in buildings that discourage residents from making use of their services means that opportunities to improve residents’ quality of life are lost.

In 2012, the CCFC studied other town facilities, asking whether any existing building could serve as a better home for the COA&HS than Bemis Hall.  The CCFC concluded that no other existing building could serve the needs of the COA.  Pierce House, for instance, has two assets – a good location and plentiful parking – but fails on every other criterion as a potential home for the COA&HS: the spaces in the existing building don’t match the programmatic needs, the possibilities for extensive expansion or reconfiguration are very limited, and Pierce House couldn’t accommodate the Parks & Recreation Department (PRD).  

For over 10 years, Town Committees have studied and evaluated options for a Community Center., and have consistently concluded that continuing to offer activities and services under the existing conditions of Bemis Hall and the pods is no longer feasible or acceptable.  Other existing town facilities do not offer a solution to the problem.  If Lincoln wants a Community Center, then building a new one is the most efficient use of town resources.

We welcome all input and questions from town residents, and will make every effort to solicit, hear, and address the priorities, values and concerns of Lincoln residents concerning a new Community Center.