DuPage County Health Department officials are hopeful construction on a new 33,000-square-foot community center can start next month after Wheaton officials approved a special use permit for the building Monday.
The one-story building will be just east of the department's existing public health center on the DuPage County campus, at 111 N. County Farm Road in Wheaton.
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It will include office space for the department and the DuPage County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, along with meeting rooms for public health and wellness programming and a short-term stay crisis unit.
"The health department was really happy, first of all, that the planning and zoning board approved it and then that the city council went forward without any objections, from either neighbors or from the city council or staff," said David Hass, public information officer for the DuPage County Health Department.
Now, officials are excited to break ground on the $11 million project in August.
"It looks like construction may have even started early, but it hasn't," Hass said, noting the piles of dirt that can be seen on the site.
Health department officials have said there will be enough money to pay for the center with reserves and the sale of two existing facilities in Lombard and Wheaton. Programming from those locations will be integrated into the new building.
The new crisis unit will provide room for a dozen clients to stay overnight, with the average stay likely lasting three to four days, officials said. It will provide an alternative for people with a behavioral health crisis who need a safe space to stabilize but don't require hospitalization.
A kitchen and multipurpose room in the community center will provide the clients with opportunities for physical activity, job training, meal preparation and other ways to expand their ability to live independently, officials said.
The building's design strays away from the traditional, institutional style of others found on the county complex, according to officials. It features large windows that offer guests a view of a courtyard area in the center of the building, and red brick and gray masonry veneer, rain screens and metal panels on the exterior.
Construction is estimated to take about 12 or 13 months, which means the center will likely be in full operation next fall.
"It's a very important step because we don't put up buildings very often, so we're very pleased we did get approval from Wheaton to proceed," Hass said.