is set to debut its new community center Feb. 6, almost a year to the day after the board approved purchasing the former post office building, 380 Surryse Road.
The 10,400-square-foot facility will become the new home to a number of existing township offerings. They include the majority of programs available to individuals participating in the Ela Township 55 Plus program, which were formerly housed at Foglia YMCA.
A youth after-school homework assistance program sponsored by the Ela Township Social Work Program also will relocate to the new center.
The renovation project to transform the building was handled by Hawthorn Woods-based .
In June 2011, the estimated figure to cover renovations for the new facility was $200,000. But when Pathmann came back to the board at its September 2011 meeting, the company stated the price tag nearly had tripled to $586,685 due to costs that came in higher than expected.
The newly renovated building consists of a "soft seating" area immediately inside the front entrance, which includes couches and chairs for people to gather.
“The front area has lots of natural light from windows, and skylights that run the width of the building. It will be a nice, quiet space for people to sit and talk or read and relax,” said Susan Dillon, director of adult and senior services at Ela Township 55 Plus.
Large windows flank both sides of the entrance, and a garden and bird sanctuary are planned just outside the front door, said Dillon.
A reception desk will be set back from the soft seating area, and there are three enclosed meeting rooms. They include a general purpose room, a conference room and a third room dedicated as "the homework room."
Regarding the latter, Ela Township social worker Susan Kostner has said space for the after-school homework assistance program has become increasingly cramped, with roughly 30 children meeting in a small community room at Liberty Lakes Apartments.
A great room will be used for larger meetings, exercise classes and monthly lunches that includes entertainment for 55 Plus members.
Numerous used tables and chairs were purchased from the by the township and will be arriving in the coming days, Dillon said.
A full-service kitchen — consisting of a stove, oven, sinks and a refrigerator — will allow seniors to take advantage of hoped-for future activities like gourmet and intergenerational cooking classes, Dillon said.
Other planned activities include air hockey, bingo and card-playing areas, as well as education seminars and health screenings provided in conjunction with .
Exercise classes like "Fit and Be Fit," Zumba, Tai chi and Yoga also will be moved to the new location.
Aquatic exercise and other physical activity programs will remain at the , with whom the township has a lease for the next five years, said Dillon.
Three offices will be housed in the building; two for the 55 Plus director and part-time employees, and one for the social worker.
Minimal changes have been made to the exterior of the building.
“We are waiting for the permanent signage to come in the next week; we power-washed the building and finished electrostatic painting on all the metal surfaces,” said Trustee Jack Reck. “In the spring, flowers will be planted in new flower beds.”
And when nicer weather comes, activities are planned on the outdoor patio and property as well. They include barbecues and picnics, intergenerational gardening, bag toss games and washers, which is similar to horseshoes.
“We have been limited to holding one program at a time due to space availability at the . In this new space, we could have five activities going simultaneously, which engages so many more of our residents,” said Dillon.
At the start, only pre-existing programs will be held at the new center.
“All existing programs will remain intact for February and March. It’s going to be a work in progress,” said Reck. “After that, utilization of the space for the wish-list of new programs will be evaluated.”
Reck added that the township is interested to see what impact new senior housing at Zurich Meadows, 250 Mohawk Trail, will have on the 55 Plus program.
The senior housing is expected to open to residents within the next month.
“I think the new community center will bring a more centralized location for seniors to gather and to continue programming provided by the township over the last 10 years,” said Reck.
For Ela Township seniors who live farther away, transportation is available from Pace, the suburban bus service.
Ela Township approved the purchase of the building for $700,000 at its Feb. 4, 2011 meeting and closed on the property at the end of June 2011.
Officials have said the purchase did not require a tax levy increase for township residents, which resulted from careful and conservative financial planning and saving.
"The new Community Center is a truly solid investment for current and future residents of Ela Township," said Lucy Prouty, supervisor.