It’s been nearly 20 years since the Cape Henlopen Senior Center was given six acres of land off Hebron Road outside Rehoboth Beach with the express purpose of building a new home. Senior center board members are now in the beginning stages of developing a site plan.
For a number of reasons, it’s taken a long time to get to this point, but senior center officials are hoping to make it a reality in the next three to four years, said Board of Directors President Jeff Balk.
The center, with 30 members, was founded at the American Legion in 1966. It moved to its current Christian Street home in 1981.
The senior center sign has been sitting on the Hebron Road land since 2005. It received the six-acre parcel as part of an extension of Hebron Road that facilitated the development of the Grande at Canal Point off Holland Glade Road.
Sparking movement on the site plan was a $480,000 investment from the Delaware General Assembly in this year’s community reinvestment fund as part of the fiscal year 2023 budget. The money is strictly for site planning and building design, said Balk.
The money from the General Assembly isn’t the only recent government participation helping the project move forward.
As part of an easement agreement with Sussex County, the lot was cleared of its trees in exchange for allowing the county to run a wastewater sewer line along the back of the property on its way to a new connection off Dunbar Street to Rehoboth Beach’s wastewater system. Removal of the trees began weeks ago and is pretty much completed.
The tree removal is starting to attract attention, said Balk.
Balk said the senior center is going to survey the land again soon to better determine buildable space, which will hopefully lead to the creation of a site plan by the end of the year.
Senior center member Bob Smith is heading up the steering committee overseeing the site-plan creation and construction. He’s a former Milford School District superintendent and former principal at the Sussex Consortium in the Cape Henlopen School District.
Smith said rough sketches of the new center come in at about 17,000 square feet, which is more than three times the size of the current 5,000-square-foot facility.
Smith said there’s talk of six indoor pickleball courts, a cafe open to the public, a professional kitchen, green space outside, and a large conference room with about 350 seats that could be rented out. There’s also going to be a better gym, and rooms for dancing and other popular activities.
“I see it as we’re only adding to what the senior center offers,” said Smith.
Even with a new senior center and outside amenities, Smith said there would also be space left on the six acres for the construction of another building that could be leased.
With a new home, there’s probably going to be a new name, said Balk. The phrase “activity center” is more widely used, he said.
Immediately, Smith said the next steps are to refine the center’s mission statement, and to do community outreach with members and neighbors. Early next year, a capital campaign will be announced, he said.