Hot meal: Gloria Padilla eats lunch at Oak Park Arms on Monday. She has lived at the center for one year.J. GEIL/Staff Photographer

It’s been no secret, Oak Park Township officials say, that the organization is in need of a new home for its senior services center, and has been for the past decade or so. But where the program might actually go, or where the township may end up situating it next year, remains somewhat of a mystery.

The township’s board has met in closed meetings to talk about leasing or buying a possible new space for senior services, as recently as last month. The Illinois Open Meetings Act allows governmental bodies to meet in private to discuss property acquisition. The township has $1.2 million earmarked in its budget for a possible new senior services location.

The depressed real estate market offers opportunities that may not have been there in the past, says F. David Boulanger, township supervisor. But no plan had come to fruition as of Monday.

“Are we exploring? Absolutely. Do we have something to report and say we have something lined up? The answer is no,” he said.

The Oak Park and River Forest Townships Senior Services program is currently located on the fifth and sixth floors of the Oak Park Arms, 418 S. Oak Park Ave. It’s been there for about 15 years, currently paying annual rent of about $120,000 for 6,500 square feet of space.

A range of services are offered there, including senior lunches, “red tape cutters” to help seniors obtain benefits, tax aid and free shuttle buses. Space there is somewhat tight, but the main concern, according to Boulanger, is accessibility. Traversing up five floors is tough for seniors, and the elevator is small and cramped. Some guests refuse to take the lift alone and call up for assistance.

The township has been looking for a new spot for the better part of a decade, taking a gander at everything from the West Cook YMCA on Marion, to Longfellow Park, to a proposed office building on Garfield. They need a space that’s 7,000 or 8,000 square feet, and on the ground floor.

Boulanger declined to comment on the specifics of what was discussed by the township board in recent closed meetings, but said the public will be informed if a decision is in the pipeline.

“We pride ourselves on being open, and we will want to report when we have something to report,” Boulanger said.

Rumors have surfaced that the township is interested in a vacant building across the street from its main offices at Oak Park Avenue and South Boulevard, which is currently in foreclosure. And township officials have been spotted, across the street from Wednesday Journal, looking at the property. Boulanger confirmed that the township has perused 126-134 S. Oak Park Ave., but declined to get into any specifics.

In the meantime, their lease is set to expire in the Oak Park Arms in June, and the township is currently negotiating a new three-year lease for the space. Unless something pops up, they’ll remain there for the near future.

“They’ve been really good to us,” Boulanger said. “I don’t think they’re going to gouge us or anything.”

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