Norfolk

Special Report: Seniors Stuck in Limbo

NORFOLK (WAVY) ---- For years, people have gone to Norfolk's Ocean View Senior Center to socialize -- and much more.
 
But soon their place for fun will be demolished. Needless to say, they are upset.
 
Even more so because the city hasn't been upfront about where their new center will be, according to seniors at the center. With no clear answers, they reached out to 10 On Your Side. 
 
For many, the Ocean View Senior Center has been a lifesaver of sorts. From Irma McClellan, who says she found out she had cancer and rushed to the center, to Theresa Fuller, who says she found happiness once again after traumatic loss in her life. 
 
"One day we were driving here to see the beach and we saw a sign that said Ocean View Senior Center and i thought 'oh my god, I need that,' " said Fuller. 
 
Fuller said she needed the senior center to help cope after her husband was murdered four years ago. 
 
"He was the victim of gang initiation, he was working on our son's car," said Fuller. "It was horrible, it was sad, this place helped me. I don't know where I'd be or where I'd be mentally."
 

The last two years this senior center brought her back to life, she says, and the seniors tell 10 On Your Side that for months they didn't know where they'd be physically. 

In March 2017, City Council sold the land here on East Ocean View Avenue to build apartments. The land will be turned into the Pinewell Station Apartments, which includes 145 apartments. 

 
The seniors say they were told by the city they'd find a new place for their center before the building was sold.
 
According to the seniors, that wasn't the case.
 
However, there were options on the table, but no concrete answers.
 
The options: the former bank commerce center, Prime Plus Norfolk Senior Center, and the East Ocean View Rec Center.
 
Carmen Andrillon has been visiting the center for 15 years and says she was so upset by the situation. 
 
"I think what the city is doing is wrong. The city doesn't take into account the senior citizens and the people that work with us. We are going to to lose that," said Andrillon.  "I am very upset. I would like a senior center to be built in Ocean View and in this community because the staff won't be here and they treat us like family."
 
The day 10 On Your Side showed up at the senior center, Chief Deputy City Manager Wynter Benda was also there.
 
He wouldn't comment, so 10 On Your Side reached out for an interview through the city and pressed for a one-on-one.
 
On the day of the interview, Benda couldn't make it, but Darrell Crittendon, Norfolk's director of recreation, parks and open space did. 
 
He had an update just in time for the interview: seniors will be moving to the East Ocean View Rec Center.
 
"It enhances the program by three days during the week, a chance for intergeneration program, a lot more field trips, enhanced programming," said Crittendon. "[The seniors] were very happy and enthused about it, and it turned out to be a very good day and meeting."
 
Before the announcement, seniors at Ocean View expressed their concerns about the new site, saying it's a youth center and they are nervous about where they will go when kids are out of school for the summer.
 
Seniors also told 10 On Your Side they are curious to know how the children will react to sharing the center with seniors. 
 
Crittendon says that should not be an issue, and in turn, the seniors will go on more field trips when the children are out of school. 
 
Seniors tell 10 On Your Side they are concerned about a smaller space for seniors, and especially about the staff not moving to the new center. We asked the city about this, and did not receive an answer regarding the staffing.
 
"They were very happy and enthused about it and it turned out to be a very good day and meeting," said Crittendon. "The seniors felt we were very open."
 
However, seniors tell us a different story about the city's transparency. 
 
"There's been a total lack of communication," said Irma McClellan. "We are being disenfranchised. The city, everything was done undercover!"
 
So 10 On Your Side asked the city: why was the building sold before seniors were given a new place for their activities -- like the seniors said?
 
In an email the city writes: "The building was not sold before the seniors there was a new place/plan for their activities. 
 
NRHA purchased the Bank of the Commonwealth as their relocation site several years ago, but the seniors didn’t want to relocate there.  We have been working with the seniors to provide a location that meets their needs." 
 
However, seniors again said that's not the case. 
 
Frustrated or not, like the city says, these seniors have until October to remain in this space.
 
A space many say has changed their lives, where they can enjoy life's sweet moments with friends and also forget about the bumps in the road we call life, with friendship and a good laugh. 
 
"They have really helped me and I just love these people so much," said Fuller. "This is my family."
 
Seniors were originally told they'd have be out by July. Now that's changed to October. 
 
According to the city, the closing date in the contract with Breeden is October 15, 2018, with one 90-day extension possible, so outside date is 1/15/19.  
 
If Breeden gets a financing commitment earlier, that could drive earlier closing date, then we would be advised by Breeden and see if that were possible. 
 
Construction drawings are being completed now for submittal to the city to undergo plan reviews and a construction schedule will follow as soon thereafter. 
 
The current Senior Center is in the AICUZ (Air Installation Compatible Use Zones) for Champers Field at Naval Station Norfolk. 
 
Assembly uses, such as a recreation center, are not supposed to be located within that zone, so the design of the Pinewell Station project leaves that area devoid of buildings other than a single maintenance storage building. 
 
The senior center was there long before the Navy and the city determined the extent of the AICUZ, but it is indeed there, and removing it reduces the risk exposure profile accordingly.
 
According to the city, the land where the senior center sits now was sold for $1.285 million.  The city going onto say the area is a prime location and waterfront community, and the apartments will draw in new retailers and restaurants to the Ocean View community.

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