DARIEN, Conn. -- The Mather Community Center has finally opened its doors and is drawing fanfare from Darien seniors, including Nancy Francesconi.
"I like it from what I've seen so far. I think it's really homey," Francesconi said as she arrived at the center for an Italian class Tuesday.
The new senior/community center adjacent to Darien Town Hall opened Monday after months of construction.
The center was a key part in the town project known as the Shuffle, which involved moving the senior center from its old site on Edgerton Street to the offices previously occupied by the Board of Education. The Shuffle was debated in town government for more than a decade before it was approved in 2011, though it still suffered delays due to some construction issues and after the contractor hired for the project went out of business.
Senior Center Coordinator Beth Paris said she had to pinch herself to convince herself that the Mather Center was finally open -- it was not a dream.
"Things are going fine. All the comments have been positive," Paris said. She that seniors like the way the space has been used and praise the brightness of the building.
The entrance to the center is bright, with large windows providing a lot of natural sunlight. The dining hall on the first floor will host the center's daily lunches, and also has some space for classes. The first floor also features classrooms for events and lectures, a sitting area, a library, rooms for art programs, a computer lab, a confidential room for screenings and meetings with lawyers and financial advisers, and a wood shop. The second floor features a fitness room/dance studio, multipurpose rooms and space that will be shared with the Youth Commission and Parks and Recreation Department.
Francesconi has attended programs at the Darien Senior Center since 1983, and said she usually tries to come in a couple of times a week. She said the new center was an improvement on the old Edgerton site, which was in need of repairs.
"I think we're going to miss it, but at the same time it was time to move on. So many things needed renovating there, it got to be too big of a job," she said.
"Lunch is still just as delicious as always," 77-year-old Cordelia Ursine said Tuesday. She said she was pleased with how the new center looks but said the building wasn't the reason she came to the Mather Center. "They kept the most important thing: The people."