Bensenville to lease and renovate former St. Alexis School for senior center
Bensenville has agreed to lease and renovate a space owned by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Joliet for a Senior Citizens and Community Center.
Last week, the village board unanimously approved a 20-year lease agreement, which would see Bensenville take over the lower level of the former St. Alexis School at 400 W. Wood Ave. Construction to renovate the space is set to begin this year, with an expected opening in late summer or fall of 2022.
"This is a project that we've been working on for a long time and we're excited to see that it's finally coming to fruition," said Bensenville Village Manager Evan K. Summers in a telephone interview this week.
Summers said a Bensenville senior center has been a campaign goal of Village President Frank DeSimone, who lobbied for funding from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. A $1.18 million state grant was carved out for the senior center with the help of Rep. Kathleen Willis of Addison, though Summers suggested that the total renovation costs will be more than the grant amount.
"The location makes a lot of sense because it's in the heart of our community," Summers said. "It's got easy access and a large parking lot."
The senior center plans call for a large banquet hall-style meeting space to accommodate up to 100, plus smaller breakout meeting rooms. The ground floor was chosen as an easier way to make the senior center more easily compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
"We envision having the ability to help seniors with their taxes, to help educate them on small topics and partnering with other agencies like the park district, the library who will help to utilize the space," Summers said. "It's a flexible space that we'll be able to utilize quite often."
The village and diocese are to split the cost of utilities. Summers also said Bensenville will pay a nominal annual rent of about $10 in exchange for the village doing the renovation and general building improvements.
Summers said the diocese will be able to use the Bensenville senior center for nonsecular activities like Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. According to Diocese of Joliet Communications Director Mary Massingale, the school has been closed since 1981. The second floor of the building is currently used for religious education classes a few days a week.
"(The diocese) has not put any use restrictions on us, but the state has made it very clear that there is to be a separation of church and state to be respected," Summers said. "Largely, our morals are in line with the church, so we're not going to be hosting a gambling night or stuff like that."