Perfectly Planned Recommendation: Convert Old Police Station to Senior Community Center

As of 2010, the previous Census states that “The total population of Maplewood is 24,588”.

  • 896 residents are between the ages of 60 and 64
  • 2364 residents are 65 and over.

Why Not?…convert the old police station to a Center for Maplewood’s Senior residents?

Maplewood Township has a youthful image.  The median age or residents is 37.4, according to the Census’ Community Survey data.  While this may be the case, 13% of the Township’s population is 60 years of age and over.

Currently, DeHart Park’s community center serves as the location for Senior residents to congregate and socialize with each other.  However, DeHart Park is an isolated location, with no access to retail locations such as Springfield Ave & Maplewood Village.  In addition, DeHart Park does not provide contact with community members in a vibrant, dynamic setting.  Let us relocate this program to the old police station instead.

People need to feel loved, appreciated, and a part of something.  (Do I need to quote a study here? =o)  Unfortunately, the trend in American culture is to shuttle people of older ages off to nursing homes and to have them as unengaged, quiet, sometimes silent residents.

Our Township can be different.

A Viable Use for Police Station. Maplewood has enough residential units. Maplewood Township has 8,668 housing units, and out of that number, we have 262 housing units standing empty at last census count.   Instead of residential units, the old police station could be an ideal location for a center for our older residents.

The old police station is geographically in the center of Maplewood Township:

  • It’s a block from Maplewood Memorial Park.
  • It’s down the street from the train station, and the
  • It’s down the street from the Library.
  • Maplewood Village is a stone throws away, and
  • Burgoff Center is within walking distance.

Seniors will also have opportunities to travel into South Orange and attend SoPac for the Arts, as well as opportunities for shopping in South Orange’s downtown district.

In addition, access to the train station would allow Senior residents to travel to other communities. For example:

  • The Paper Mill Play House in Millburn.
  • NY City.

An opportunity for Economic Dev. It could be a costly mistake ignoring an opportunity to bring these residents to our commercial centers. The generation born between 1925 to 1945, as well as the generation born between 1946 and 1964 can bring their purchasing power to Maplewood’s commercial centers, both Maplewood Village and, if a trip is organized, to Springfield Avenue.

In her article “Marketers, take note: Baby boomers have lots of money to spend,” Kristen Davis of USA Today writes:

“The nation’s 75 million baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, ought to be the most sought-after demographic cohort for American marketers. As a group, they are the most affluent Americans, with three quarters of the nation’s financial assets and an estimated $1 trillion in disposable income annually.”

In particular, Maplewood Village stores  such as Words Bookstore, the movie Theatre, Kings supermarket, various restaurants, the local toy store Wodden You Know, and Burgoff Center, stand to benefit from the foot traffic of Senior residents.

Safer Neighborhoods. Senior residents can benefit from participating in community events at the library, events at Maplewood Memorial Park, and recreational activities through local government such as tennis lessons. Having senior residents out and about could help create safer neighborhoods in Maplewood.  More community members watching out for the safety of residents in the community could help make our streets safer.

Benefit to Students. Residents of all ages stand to benefit from having senior residents participating in community events, in retail sales, and civic events.  Students who interact with senior residents can learn from individuals who’ve lived through major world events, and who can share facts and personal experiences as they relate.  There will be more opportunities for students to learn from oral history, and there will be more opportunities for senior residents to feel validated.  It’s a win-win situation.

Method of transportation for Seniors.  Maplewood Township can utilize the town’s Jitneys to transport our senior residents to and from the old police station.  Maplewood Township was provided the opportunity by NJ Transit to utilize the Townships’ Jitneys for uses outside of transporting residents to and from the train station.  Between 10 am & 5pm Maplewood’s Jitneys sit unused.  Between 10am & 5pm Maplewood’s senior residents who need to be picked-up could be transported.

The benefits mentioned above will pay for the cost of transporting Seniors.

Source: Data from American Community Survey.

Read more: 2006, Oldest Boomers Turn 60 – US Census Press Releases

© 2010 W. S. Hughes l Updated 12.22.11

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Veronica Peralta says:

    We need to pay for the $23 million spent on the new police building with that property on Dunnell St. This is a good idea, but we can’t afford it.

  2. Resident Planning Geek says:

    Hi Veronica,

    My focus in this post is on investing in people. I believe when you invest in people, people will invest in you. If we invest in our Senior population by giving them more access to township services and establishments, our Seniors will invest their time and dollars in our township. We will be capturing a demand that has otherwise been overlooked. I would compare this, in a way, to the Concierge company at the train station’s effort to provide services to Maplewood residents, commutors, who would otherwise take their business somewhere else.

    Renovating the old police station will mitigate financial expenses and time (time as $$). Personally, I see a mixed use, retail and residential use of this property involving more cost than benefit:

    the cost of demolishing the old police building,
    the time it will take to rezone this plot of land if necessary,
    the cost of paying a consulting company to design a new use for the space,
    the process of courting a developer,
    the cost of putting out a request for proposals to developers,
    the cost of rebuilding, and
    the cost of courting business owners and home owners to purchase the new property. (And this isn’t everything)

    Also, its the general rule for government to offer economic incentives as a way of fostering economic development. What financial incentives will our local government give to court business owners?

    My question is this: Why do we need to factor all these financial and opportunity costs when we have a population in the community that could benefit from utilizing this property immediately? The building can be renovated. Upon renovation the building will be immediately occupied.

    Our community will always have a population of individuals 60 and older, and they should be planned for as well as we continue to develop and redevelop our community. Certainly their utilizing this new space will bring in sustainable new revenue to business owners and taxes to our local government. This revenue will help our local government pay for expenses, the new police building being one example.

    Thank you for this! Feel free to follow up with another comment. =o)

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