Last week, Elmhurst Community Unit District 205 and Elmhurst Park District finalized plans for the purchase and sale of the property at 407 W. St. Charles Road, commonly known as The Abbey. The $1.6 million deal makes room for the eventual relocation of the Park District’s senior center and a permanent solution for the York High School Transition Center. Both entities have long identified the need for larger space for the respective programs. Closing will take place in February 2021.
The deal was finalized during the board meetings of both entities after more than three years of discussions regarding the sale. The school and park district have a history of intergovernmental cooperation, and this opportunity will provide future mutual benefits to each agency as well as to Elmhurst taxpayers.
The School District presently rents a facility in downtown Elmhurst. The Transition Center program is designed to help students with disabilities between the ages of 18-22 develop the independence to be successful in life and work outside of school. Collaborating to determine the future of The Abbey property is an example of working together to benefit the community.
"This is a real win-win for the community. The School District will finally find a permanent home for the Transition Center program; one that has adequate space and physical characteristics to support the needs of the students. The community as a whole also will benefit by realizing improved services for senior citizens. I have appreciated our working relationship with the Park District, and it has been gratifying to be able to work together to mutually improve services in two important areas for Elmhurst residents,” Elmhurst CUSD 205 Superintendent Dr. David Moyer said.
When the Park District vacates the building, D205 will need to make significant renovations to the site. It is premature to speculate on a date when D205 will be able relocate its Transition Center program.
The Abbey has served as the Park District’s senior center since 1974. For decades it provided activities for older adults, but during the Park District’s comprehensive Vision 2020 planning process, which began in 2016, the community identified a need for a new or improved senior center. While seeking another location, the Park District and D205 began discussions about the acquisition/sale of The Abbey. The close proximity to York High School made the adjacent property a viable option for the school district.
On August 26, 2019, the Board of Park Commissioners approved the purchase of 2.92 acres of property at 155 E. St. Charles Road. The property includes an approximate 11,800-square-foot recreation building that is ideally sized and situated to function as the site for a new adult center for the community. In the summer of 2020, the park space on the site was dedicated as Centennial Park in honor of the Park District’s 100th anniversary.
With a new location secure, both entities met to further the conversations of the potential sale of The Abbey to District 205. Each agency had the property independently appraised in late 2019, and negotiations concerning the sale price took place over the winter without a final agreement being reached due to the onset and duration of the pandemic. With the promise of a vaccine on the horizon, D205 and the Park District staff re-started discussions and agreed the opportunity was still viable.
The sale of the property is permitted under State law, and will allow the Park District to utilize the funds garnered from the sale to develop the Centennial Park site as well as bring the recreation building up to code in order to fully comply with ADA, life safety and various building code requirements. This will create a multi-dimensional center and expand adult and senior programming, including both recreational and social service options, in a larger, upgraded, more functional space.
If and when pandemic-related restrictions are lifted and when it is safe to provide programming opportunities for seniors, the Wilder Mansion will serve as an “interim” senior center until the new adult center at Centennial Park is ready for use, projected in late 2021 or early 2022.
“We’re very excited to see the efforts of both entities come to fruition,” said Park District Executive Director, Jim Rogers, “Senior citizens and adults of all ages will benefit from the new Adult Center envisioned for Centennial Park as part of the District’s Vision 2020 Plan. The District is also pleased that the Wilder Mansion will be able to serve the needs of adults and seniors until the new center opens.”