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New center provides space for Evansville seniors, public

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Gina Duwe
May 5, 2011
— Evansville was “really behind” other area communities by not having a community/senior center, said Mary Libby, president of the Creekside Place board.

That's changing with the completion of Creekside Place, the new brick building at 102 Maple St.

“This is the coming together of lots and lots of planning and work to make it so everybody will be happy under one roof,” Libby said, “and I think we're going to achieve that.”

The idea for a new senior center started in 2005 when an anonymous Evansville resident gave $1 million to start a trust fund. In 2009, the donor revealed her identity as Mary Peckham, and a party was held to honor her donation and her 93rd birthday.

A capital campaign kicked off in April 2010 with a $2.5 million goal, Libby said. Donations still are being accepted because they are about $80,000 shy of the target. The total includes a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant.

Donations are recognized on engraved wooden nameplates on a board crafted by the Woodchucks woodworking group.

Those who watched the construction noted the quick and beautiful job by Vogel Brothers of Madison. The project broke ground Oct. 25 and will be ready for its first event, the annual Chili Cookoff, on Saturday, May 14.

Features of the center

Each room was designed to be multipurpose, Executive Director Dave VanDerHaegen said. The conference room, for example, will have items such as a full-length mirror so it can be used as a bridal party room.

Other features include:

-- An arts and crafts room with storage and a sink so it also can be used as a children's area during a wedding, he said.

-- The “Grand Room,” which seats more than 200 people but can be divided into four rooms. A commercial-grade kitchen is attached.

-- The Libby Lounge, which will have round bistro tables, a coffee station and pool table.

-- Lockers for civic organizations because the center will be available for free nonprofit meetings. The 10,000-square-foot facility can seat 325 people.

-- Landscaping is yet to be finished behind the building, which overlooks Allen Creek.

Organizers have started an annual membership program, which includes discounts on rental fees. Rental of the entire building for a Friday or Saturday night costs $1,000 for members or $1,250 for non-members. Membership is $45 for an individual or $60 per family.

Impact on the community

Seniors will be moving to the new center next week from a room they've occupied in the back of the elementary school, Libby said.

“Our seniors now have (had) a lovely place to go … but it's so much more elegant for them, homey, and they can do so many activities at once,” she said.

Seniors can hold an exercise class in one room while a private baby shower takes place in the next room, she said.

Creekside Place will be a customer to virtually every business in town, she said.

“It will keep people in Evansville,” she said.

The center has more than 15 bookings, including a dental convention, luncheons and anniversary parties. Center management hopes to attract weddings now that potential brides can see the facility.

Still on the drawing board are two more phases—adding an indoor swimming pool and creating a workshop for the Woodchucks—but the focus now is on paying off the first phase, Libby said.

A grand opening is planned for the July 4 weekend.


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