Piedmonters have a rare opportunity to shape their community next week.

If you don't already know, the city of Piedmont owns the building at 801 Magnolia Ave. It is located at the end of Bonita Avenue, tucked up on a grassy hill across from Piedmont High School. Once a Christian Science reading room, it was bought by the city 10 years ago and sat vacant until the Piedmont Center for the Arts established an art gallery and performance space in the building. What you may not know is that the east wing of the building remains undeveloped and City Council is seeking ideas on what to do with the space. Before discussing that, it is helpful to step back and consider how Piedmont is changing.

To be candid, we are aging. According to the 2010 Census, Piedmont has a population of 10,667, a decline of 2.5 percent from 2000. However, the real story is in the change among age groups. Population younger than 5 declined 0.5 percent (516) and between 5 and 17 declined 1.6 percent (2,501) while the population older than 65 increased by 2 percent (1,639). Population between the ages of 18 and 65 remained stable at 56.4 percent (6,011), but about 30 percent of this group (1,981) is older than 55. That means that by the 2020 Census, more than 30 percent of Piedmonters will be older than 65, twice that of their current percentage. The boomer wave is starting to swell.


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One more statistic from the Census -- while the largest age group in Piedmont is between the ages of 55 and 59 (1,035), the next largest group is between the ages of 10 and 14 (1,017). Many families start elsewhere and move into Piedmont when they need the schools (and when they can afford it!).

So how should the space at 801 Magnolia be developed? That question was posed to the community eight years ago during the Civic Center Master Plan (CCMP) hearings. The CCMP is a large-scale plan for central Piedmont intended to provide a centralized "town center" to congregate in -- there's a model of the plan on display at City Hall.

A new recreation center with exercise rooms and new pools, a central plaza with retail (think coffee), better pedestrian access and a new city building at 801 Magnolia -- this plan emerged from multiple community workshops. It's more wish list than reality at the moment but the aging of the recreation center, swimming pool and 801 Magnolia does present the opportunity for a better design of the town center. Many ideas were proposed for the site -- a library, post office, arts center, day care, reading room, senior and/or teen center, business space -- though no specific building designs were presented.

But perhaps a new building isn't needed. The utility of 801 Magnolia is best represented by the efforts of Piedmont Center for the Arts -- a group of volunteers who saw a need in the community and committed time and resources to rehabbing the space at little cost to the city. Thanks to their efforts, Piedmont now has a thriving arts center used by many groups in town. PCA wants to do more with the unused space and will be coming to City Council with a proposal. City staff also has a proposal for the space -- operation of preschool day care for 20 children -- which could be profitable, although children of city staff may be eligible for free care at the facility. So the city does need day care services, but it would appear more for our increasing number of seniors than for our declining number of preschoolers.

The City Council is soliciting proposals from the community on the unused portion of the 801 Magnolia building and will review proposals at 7:30 p.m. May 6 in City Hall. All proposals must be submitted by May 1 to the City Clerk's Office at 120 Vista Ave., Piedmont, CA 94611 or via email to jtulloch@ci.piedmont.ca.us. Contact Recreation Director Mark Delventhal at mdelventhal@ci.piedmont.ca.us for a tour of the 801 Magnolia space. And submit your ideas by May 1.

Garrett Keating is a Pied- mont City Council member.