Conway senior program plans to buy Agora center

By Tammy Keith Originally Published February 17, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated February 15, 2013 at 10:41 a.m.
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Tammy Keith

The Conway Senior Wellness and Activity Center has plans to move into the Agora Conference & Special Events Center on Siebenmorgen Road in Conway. A contract was signed last week to buy the building for $1.95 million, and a capital campaign will soon be announced, said Debra Robinson, executive director of the Faulkner County Senior Citizens Program.

— The Faulkner County Council on Aging Board of Directors signed a $1.95 million contract Monday to buy the Agora Conference & Special Events Center on Siebenmorgen Road in Conway.

“At least it’s a starting place for us,” said Debra Robinson, executive director of the Faulkner County Senior Citizens Program. “We know now what we need to raise.”

Robinson said the Conway Senior Wellness and Activity Center at 1620 Donaghey Ave. is inadequate.

It has about 9,000 square feet, and she said Agora, with approximately 19,000 square feet, has more than double the space.

“We will be able to do so many things that we only dream of here,” Robinson said.

The asking price of Agora was $2.1 million, but Robinson said the price was negotiated.

Robinson said she was contacted by Agora owners Lucinda and D.J. Waller, who were unavailable for comment at press time.

She said a capital campaign will soon be launched, headed by consultant Fred Hueston of Conway.

Hueston was hired by the senior center to do a feasibility study.

The primary question was whether to buy a new facility or build one.

“It’s going to be a whole lot cheaper than if we were going to build from scratch,” Robinson said.

She said in an earlier article that the program was given funding from the Nabholz Family Foundation to have architectural plans drawn up for a new center.

“It would cost approximately $9 million to build using those plans. We are dreaming big,” she said.

The Conway City Council on Tuesday approved a $200,000 Community Development Block Grant for the project.

“I think that’s as much as we could get, so we were real thankful for that,” Robinson said. “That’s our start.

“We will really and truly need to sell our facility here.”

She said the current center serves 75 to 80 people a day. The program offers home-delivered meals, transportation, congregate meals and recreational activities.

“In 1980, we moved over here from a building over in the Conway Housing Authority,” Robinson said.

The facility on Donaghey is a former church. A room was added to the building, but the facility still doesn’t meet all of the program’s needs.

Robinson said most activities, except for eating, are held in the open room.

Tables are constantly being set up and taken down, she said.

“Yesterday at 8:30, we had our art class, had tables set up, then gospel singing, and nobody can play pool or play bean-bag baseball that they love to play,” she said.

Next was line dancing, then Zumba.

“We have a scheduling

nightmare sometimes,” Robinson said.

“We want to offer more as far as health and wellness,” she said.

“We have to look into the future, too, and know the aging population is going to keep growing, and we want to be set and ready to offer all the programs and things that interest seniors — our younger seniors to our older seniors,” Robinson said.

“The only negative I’ve heard — ‘Oh, that’s too far away.’ It’s not,” she said.

“We’ve even taken a group of seniors over there,” Robinson said. “Everybody seems to be real, real excited.

“Hopefully, it’s going to all work out great, and we’re going to be able to raise the money.”

Another possibility for income for the center is to rent out a portion of the facility.

Robinson said a steering committee and co-chairmen are needed before the capital campaign is announced.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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