MANKATO — For Peggy Kreber, the conversion of the Nichols Building into a vanguard adult community center can’t come soon enough.
“I’m anxious to get going. I can’t wait,” said the fit 57-year-old North Mankatoan, who retired two years ago and routinely walks from her home to the Summit Center in Mankato, which the Nichols project will replace.
In late 2014, Kreber and the rest of the community’s aging-adult population should be enjoying the fruits of a $4 million effort to convert five-story Nichols into a new-age facility for older-age adults.
“We don’t use the word ‘senior’ anymore,” VINE Faith in Action Executive Director Pam Determan said. “None of us want to be seniors. We talk about aging adults.”
The Nichols facility, which would replace the space-cramped Summit Center operated by VINE, will be an activity center for physically vital retirees and mid-lifers likely to look askance at shuffleboard and the sedentary pursuits of traditional retirement life.
Think of it as a “Y” for baby boomers. Or:
“My term for it is a (college) student union for aging adults,” Determan said Monday during an open house at Nichols, where scores of visitors toured the building’s gutted five floors that will eventually feature:
n A multi-use 4-feet-deep warm water pool.
n A technology center with computers for personal use and to accommodate VINE-provided tax services.
n A fitness center featuring specialized exercise equipment for those 55-plus.
n A cafe/coffee shop
n A large multi-purpose room for fitness classes, dances and community use.
n A cushioned third-floor walking track (12 laps will equal one mile).
n A respite center where adult caregivers can take a break.
n A yoga studio and game room.
Moreover, the top floor will feature perhaps the city’s most scenic public deck — a long and spacious outdoor balcony providing a bird’s-eye view of downtown Mankato and the bluffs beyond.
VINE officials said it also could be a revenue-producer when rented out for wedding receptions and other events.
The organization also plans to earn revenue by offering the fourth floor as leasable space to other organizations and businesses.
Nichols’ owner, Blue Earth County, abandoned the structurally sturdy but aging building several years ago and was looking at a costly fee to demolish it until VINE saw it as a remedy to Summit Center’s inadequacies.
Work to date on Nichols has included removal of all asbestos materials and removal of interior walls.
VINE officials have a July 31 date with the County Board, at which time they’ll be allowed to buy Nichols for $1 if they show that a requisite $1.7 million has been raised for basic building rehab work.
Determan said as of Monday the group was still about $100,000 short of that goal.
Presuming it’s reached, architectural design work would then move forward, along with continuing fundraising.
Determan said excavating work and new energy-efficient windows are being donated by contractors and an elevator company will install a new lift at a substantially reduced cost.
Summit Center on South Fifth Street has been used since 1979 as an activity facility for older residents. Nichols is vastly larger, has more parking spaces and is far more accessible than Summit, which sits on a steep grade.
The need for an upgraded and larger center for aging adults can be found in the numbers: The percentage of Minnesotans 65 and over is expected to double between 2000 and 2030.
The Nichols Building was named for Mankato State College science instructor Marvin Nichols, who died in a lab chemical explosion in 1938.
The humanitarian Nichols was one of the founding members of the Blue Earth County Welfare Society. He also provided homeless people with food and shelter.