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August 13, 2015 | Whistlestop’s goal is to transform its current building into a transit-oriented, earthquake safe senior center with on-site services and senior housing to meet the needs of our growing senior population. The urgency of the Whistlestop project is driven by the arrival of the SMART train in 2016 which will operate just inches from the existing Whistlestop-building on Tamalpais Avenue. Noise and vibration from SMART train operations will make it difficult to work in the current structure, due to the age and outdated condition of the current Whistlestop building.

The transformation of the existing building will allow Whistlestop to manage the impacts of the new train station, allow for a modernization and expand facilities that serve seniors all over Marin, and create critically needed, very affordable housing for seniors. Whistlestop has partnered with Eden Housing to help realize their vision for a new facility that will include 41 units of on-site affordable senior housing to complement its Active Aging Center and Jackson Café.

Aging Action Initiative Whistlestop's Mission Plaza

These studios and one bedroom units will provide homes to very low to extremely low income seniors, aged 62 and older, who earn less than 50% of the Area Median Income. The project will include high quality amenities such as a community room, a computer center and library, landscaped terraces, and furnished lobbies for social interaction. The units will offer quality, safe homes at an affordable rate. As the first affordable transit-oriented community for older adults in Marin County, the development will also allow residents a high degree of mobility without a car.

Combined with the on-site services offered by Whistlestop and the amenities in downtown San Rafael, seniors will live active lives in a large, socially connected community. Seniors will enjoy numerous opportunities such as fitness classes, special events, game groups, and outreach services bringing people together, active social connections, and new learning experiences. Residents will also be eligible to receive low-cost lunches on-site at Whistlestop’s Jackson Café. Other important amenities within half a mile include pharmacies, banks, retail stores and restaurants, and coffee shops.

Aging Action Initiative Whistlestop's Mission Plaza

Whistlestop is the oldest and largest senior services provider and paratransit operator in all of Marin County. Due to its location next to the County’s regional transportation hub, the San Rafael Transit Center and future SMART station, it is ideally positioned to serve the aging population in Marin in the most efficient ways possible. Whistlestop must be located within three blocks of transit because 40% of seniors traveling to Whistlestop use public transportation, and many have limited mobility, Whistlestop’s central location and expanded transit options will make it easier for Marin’s seniors to travel to the Center.

Eden Housing has laid the ground work to ensure the station and building are aesthetically pleasing, and that the Whistlestop project improves the urban environment for downtown shoppers, diners and visitors. This collaboration and leadership from the private and non-profit sector is particularly needed in an era without redevelopment agencies. Eden’s team worked with community stakeholders to design an anchor structure with open spaces where the community can gather, as well as improve and enliven this corner of downtown San Rafael for all residents.

Marin County residents are the fastest aging population in the nation. The population living and moving to Marin is a much older demographic than anywhere else in the United States. According to the US Census Bureau, more than one in every three Marin residents will be 65 or older by 2030. Meeting the needs of our aging community requires a variety of improvements to existing services such as more convenient public transit, better access to affordable health care, and increased availability of senior meal and home-delivered food programs.

Aging Action Initiative Whistlestop's Mission Plaza

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For more information about Whistlestop’s program and services please visit the Whistlestop website at