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By Anna Lothson
Wednesday marks Oak Park Township's newest expansion as the doors at the new senior services building officially open across the street from Township hall.
Although the open house celebration isn't scheduled until Saturday, Aug. 11, client services begin Wednesday at 130 S. Oak Park Ave.
The building, part of the Avenue Business District, is now home to the township's senior services programs, which include assistance in transportation, meals, caregivers, elder abuse, health screenings, income tax preparation services, in-home chores and money management tips.
The new facility has been a long time coming since it was determined in 2009 that the old location in the Oak Park Arms retirement community building, 408 S. Oak Park Ave., was no longer the best fit for the township.
They also discovered that a foreclosed property, just blocks away, could be secured at an affordable rate. The township was paying roughly $120,000 a year in rent at The Arms, and the space was crammed into the fifth and sixth floors, relying on an old elevator that often got stuck, according to David Boulanger, township supervisor.
The move is both fiscally and logistically a better option, he said, since the new building is on the ground floor of a rehabbed space and closer to better parking, public transportation and Scoville Park.
Although the business district initially opposed the move, since the 130 S. Oak Park Ave. location was believed to be a better fit for retail, the purchase received 90 percent approval in March 2011 from voters at a special public meeting.
"I like to say that from day one the stars have aligned," Boulanger said. "It's a public building and I want to be very appreciative to the taxpayers who were supportive of this."
Construction started last November and township staff began moving in earlier this month. The project was expected to be complete by the end of June, but installing an elevator pushed the timeline back a month.
The building will provide more senior convenience and accessibility, parent and youth programming, and more vitality in the area, Boulanger said. Intergenerational programs, such as substance-abuse education and prevention will also be housed in the space.
The convenience of being located near restaurants and shopping is a perk of the new building, as well as having programs on the first and second floor.
"This is really a time to have socialization," Boulanger said, referring to senior residents who will benefit from the services.
The Arms was a great location for years, he said, but the aging building created increasing problems for the township. Though it is a good retirement facility, the township targets a wider range of seniors, and the new facility offers a wealth of new opportunities.
The total cost of the building purchase and renovation is $2.1 million — $1.45 million of that for the renovations. The new building offers 8,000 square feet. Their old space was 6,725 square feet.
The public open house will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 11. The celebration will include a ribbon cutting, remarks from township officials and a building tour.