REDMOND — The Redmond Senior Center was a bustling hub for residents 50 and over — or as some like to say, “50 and better.” Along with daily lunch, tables for puzzles and meeting rooms for socializing, the center offered something different each day: Driftwood sculpture classes on Wednesdays, gentle yoga on Thursdays, Mexican-train dominoes on Fridays.

Many of those offerings have been relocated since the senior center closed in September after mold was discovered in the building. Seniors now meet in the lobby of the Redmond Community Center for coffee. The dominoes group plays at City Hall. As they found their activities moved to various locations throughout the city, the senior community had been awaiting news on what will come of their former hub.

City officials now say it will be at least two years before the senior center reopens, either in a new facility, a renovated building or in space to be shared with other services, such as the teen center. The estimated costs to renovate or rebuild the senior center are at least $20 million, parks and recreation officials said at a recent City Council meeting. City Council members will decide which option to take next year, but the central building will remain closed for at least two years, regardless of the decision.

“We were hoping we could get the seniors back in there and we could operate as part of an external renovation, but that is not the case,” said Carrie Hite, director of Redmond Parks and Recreation.

The senior center was abruptly closed after an investigation, prompted by a May incident in which two stucco panels fell near the loading dock, found extensive problems with the building’s structure. Inspectors found mold and other evidence of water leakage that could have started as early as when it was built in 1991, said Eric Dawson, Redmond senior engineer.

The building “just wasn’t constructed well,” he said at the City Council’s Dec. 3 meeting.


The city looked for another spot to move the senior center, but couldn’t find an ideal space to house everything the center previously provided, Hite said.

The senior center has been a mainstay in Redmond, with nearly 50,000 visits every year. While some senior centers are run by nonprofits and have membership fees, Redmond’s was city-owned and most activities and services were free.

Sue Mitchell, who has lived in Redmond for 35 years, first became involved when she taught genealogy classes, then started going more often for services like tax help or to do puzzles with a few women who are widows.

“They had just about everything you could think of,” she said. “It was a really nice gathering place.”

When Deanna Francis moved to Redmond a decade ago from Indiana, the senior center was her entry into the community. She took exercise and wellness classes and joined the “discerning diners” group, a weekly club that explores local restaurants.

“One of the real problems for seniors is once they are aged a bit, they may not be driving and don’t get out and about as much as they should,” said Francis, who is now a co-chair of the Senior Advisory Committee.” They need the stimulation of other people and the community that brings.”


Another unique aspect of the center, seniors said, were the activities for immigrants, such as those who had moved to Redmond with their adult children after they got a tech job. A monthly lunch for seniors from India has been relocated to a Redmond church.

About 80% of the senior center activities have been moved to locations like the Redmond Community Center at Marymoor Village, Redmond Teen Center and Redmond Public Safety building, Hite said. There have been fewer visits, in part because of distance; the community center is about two miles from the senior center. Starting next month, the city will start driving seniors to the community center once a week.

Mitchell said she hadn’t tried to find any new activities since the center closed and has trouble finding out where things are now that the central spot is gone.

“It’s a real loss,” she said.

On Thursdays, the city offers lunch for seniors at Bytes Café in City Hall, which has been converted to a drop-in space. Francis says she enjoys seeing people there, greeting each other and talking.

“That sense of community still pervades,” she said. “To me, that epitomizes what the center should be, and continues to be.”