126-134 S. Oak Park Ave.File 2011

Oak Park Township was making its final push last week to purchase a vacant building just south of the Oak Park Avenue Green Line station.

Voters will have a say today on whether the township should acquire the empty, two-story building at 126-134 S. Oak Park Ave. The plan is to spend a total of $1.2 million to buy the property and adapt it as a new senior center.

The meeting takes place at 7 p.m. tonight in the Veterans Room of the Oak Park Public Library, 834 Lake. If at least 15 voters show up, the township will hold a voice vote on the purchase no later than 7:50 p.m.

If voters say no, the township will likely just walk away, assuming it was rejected for solid reasons, David Boulanger, township supervisor, said in an interview with Wednesday Journal’s editorial board last week. If the reason seems fuzzy, the township may come back in a few weeks for another vote.

“I’m not really expecting, at this point, any kind of organized group coming and saying it shouldn’t be here,” Boulanger said. “Whether there will be some individuals who are cranky and have some questions about taxes, we feel prepared to answer.”

For the past decade or so, the township has been scouring Oak Park, looking for a new spot for Senior Services, currently located on the fifth and sixth floors of the Oak Park Arms, 418 S. Oak Park Ave. Space is somewhat cramped at that location and it’s a challenge for seniors to use a tight elevator to go up five flights. The township is paying $120,000 in rent each year for the space.

About a year ago, the township set its sights on 126-134 Oak Park Ave. and has since been negotiating to seal the deal. They finally reached a contract last month when Granite Realty acquired title to the property from the bank which held it in foreclosure, Boulanger said.

The township has about $1.2 million, saved over the last 10 years in anticipation of buying a property for senior services. With cash on hand, they won’t need to take on debt or new taxes to make the purchase.

Boulanger said the township has kept things quiet over the past year because so many deals have fallen through in the past. They’ve looked at everything from the Comcast building on Madison, to the basement of the Nineteenth Century Club, but nothing panned out.

With expanded space for the senior lunch program, the elderly will have a chance to get out of the house and socialize with others, said Desiree Scully, head of senior services. And John Williams, director of youth services, said the new space will also let the township expand its offerings for local teens. Those include job-finding assistance, and a substance abuse program called “FACE IT” that brings parents together with kids to address drug issues.

“It’s good to have it on neutral ground,” Williams said. “If it’s at a school, someone going to an event is [likely to say], ‘Oh there’s all the drug addict kids that got referred to the program.'”

Boulanger said he hopes a large contingent shows up to the meeting Wednesday, so the purchase isn’t just approved by a small contingent of voters.

“I hope it goes very smoothly and I hope we have a good turnout just to show the kind of support there is in the community for it,” he said.

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