Center at Belvedere
The Senior Center, known as The Center, or specifically as The Center at Belvedere, is a non-profit organization that hosts events, classes, and other activities primarily oriented towards people over the age of 50. The organization’s mission is to “positively impact our community by creating opportunities for healthy aging through social engagement, physical well-being, civic involvement, creativity, and lifelong learning.” The Center is located at 540 Belvedere Boulevard. Groundbreaking for The Center at Belvedere was held on November 16, 2018. The Grand Opening of The Center at Belvedere, originally scheduled for April 18, 2020, has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The director is Peter Thompson.
The University League - now the Junior League of Charlottesville -- established the center in 1960 in order to provide educational and enrichment activities for people over the age of 50. The facility was the second of its kind in Virginia and today is the longest continually operated senior center in Virginia.
The Senior Center first operated in rented space at 301 East Market Street before quickly moving to another rented space at 101 East High Street. In 1963, the agency became independent of the Junior League. In 1982, the Center moved into the Central Library on Market Street, a space it occupied until the Jessup family made space near their Pepsi Cola bottling facility available at half-price. The new 17,000 square foot facility on Pepsi Place opened on September 11, 1991.
In November 2002, the Senior Center became accredited by the National Institute of Senior Centers, the first such facility in Virginia to receive that designation. It achieved accreditation again in 2007 and 2012 and is one of only six senior centers in America to have reached this standard three times. It received the International Council on Active Aging/NuStep Pinnacle Award in 2009 as America’s premier community center for all aspects of senior wellness; physical, intellectual, social, emotional, environmental, spiritual, and vocational.
Move to Belvedere
Planning and fundraising for the move to Belvedere took many years. Officials at The Center initially considered multiple alternative locations, and in 2009, The Center (then known as The Senior Center) received a special-use permit pertaining to a plan that would have moved The Center to a facility owned by ACAC at 200 Four Seasons Drive. However, by October 2012, The Center had instead decided to construct a new building in the Belvedere neighborhood. Fundraising in support of the project, estimated at that time to cost $20 million, officially began with an event on October 9, 2012. Plans for The Center included an indoor walking track, gymnasium, exercise rooms, auditorium, and classrooms in a 60,000-square-foot building. Bushman Dreyfus Architects handled the project’s design, with support from Lifespan Design Studio, of Ohio.
On March 2, 2016, The Center’s executive director and other leaders appeared before the Albemarle Board of Supervisors and proposed that Albemarle County and Charlottesville contribute $2 million towards the construction cost, which at that point was expected to total $23 million. Albemarle County Supervisors discussed the matter, and based on that discussion, County Executive Thomas Foley indicated that The Center’s proposal would be included in future discussions of strategic priorities. In October 2016, The Center’s leadership appeared before City Council to deliver a similar message. City Counselors indicated that the request would be evaluated alongside other proposals as part of the Capital Improvement Program process.
The Center’s request for a local government contribution towards the new building generated resistance among some citizens. Gary Grant described his concerns during an appearance on The Schilling Show on April 15, 2016. About a year later, during an April 11, 2017 public hearing concerning Albemarle County’s proposed budget, Mr. Grant and other local residents expressed concerns with the use of taxpayer money for the project.   After receiving public comment, multiple Supervisors explained their support for the project, with Supervisor Ann Mallek stating that the County’s decision to support The Center would be similar to the County’s previous decision to support the construction of the YMCA at McIntire Park.
The Center held an official groundbreaking ceremony for construction of the new building at the Belvedere site on November 16, 2018. The final size of the building was 47,200 square feet distributed across two stories, smaller than the initial concept presented in 2016.
Board of Directors (2016-2017)
- Hi Ewald, President
- Greg Menke, Vice president
- Rene Bond, Secretary
- Dick Brownlee, Treasurer
- Elizabeth D. Beasley
- Joe Gieck
- Michael Guthrie
- Rob Jiranek
- Jennifer King
- Mike Kirkman
- Joe Krenn
- Jeanne McCusker
- Ann Myer
- Virginia Tahboub
- Douglas Wheeler
- Kingfishers is a group of anglers that meets monthly to share tips and offer advice on fishing. They have a pond in Free Union that they maintain for members and guests. 
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- Web. County of Albemarle, Albemarle County Board of Supervisors Minutes, Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, Albemarle County, April 11, 2017, retrieved April 25, 2021.
- Web. Some speak against new Senior Center facility funds at supervisors meeting, Allison Wrabel, Daily Progress, Berkshire Hathaway, April 11, 2017, retrieved April 25, 2021.
- Web. The Center set to break ground Friday, Bryan McKenzie, Daily Progress, Berkshire Hathaway, November 15, 2018, retrieved April 25, 2021.
- Web. We’ve Broken Ground on the Center at Belvedere, News from The Center, The Center, January 2019, retrieved April 25, 2021.
- Web. The Center at Belvedere: Breaking Ground, Spectrum Integrators, November 16, 2018, retrieved April 25, 2021.
- Web. The Center at Belvedere, Bushman Dreyfus Architects, Charlottesville, Virginia, retrieved April 25, 2021.
- Web. Fishing Group / Kingfishers, Website, Senior Center Inc, retrieved October 6, 2017.