For more than 40 years, The Abbey at 407 St. Charles Road was the home of senior programming for Elmhurst Park District. From luncheons to chair yoga, it was a center of learning and enrichment for adults in the community.
Still, The Abbey had its drawbacks. There were space constraints and little ability to support recreational programming needs and growth. This is why, just one mile east of The Abbey, the community will find construction underway at Centennial Recreation Center, the future home of the Park District’s adult and senior programming.
The need for a new adult center was a key finding in the assessment conducted for the Vision 2020 Comprehensive and Strategic Plan. Community feedback indicated support for a new or improved facility but The Abbey had reached its limits in providing the space and options needed to support Elmhurst’s desire for increased adult programming.
Based on this feedback, in 2019 the Park Board approved acquiring the former Redeemer Center at 155 E. St. Charles Road (now known as Centennial Recreation Center). At 11,800 square feet, the building is more than double the size of The Abbey.
The Park Board and staff also began having discussions regarding how much renovations were needed since the building had not had any major renovations in 20 years and was not up to code in terms of accessibility or fire protection. Options ranged from demolishing and replacing the building to completing renovations. There was much optimism regarding the facility’s future.
The financial impact of the pandemic led to some readjusting of those redevelopment ideas. The Park District had to balance strategic priorities, like the Adult Center, with day-to-day operations, in order to remain financially agile. It was clear that renovating the existing facility was the most fiscally responsible course of action. With this decision made, the Park Board and staff developed plans to keep spending conservative to focus on meeting the community’s needs.
Then, in December 2020, the Park District finalized the sale of The Abbey to Elmhurst Community Unit District 205 for $1.6 million. The sale of the property allowed the Park District to utilize those funds in remodeling the Centennial Recreation Center with a total project cost of $900,000. The project is also being funded with Special Recreation Association Fund reserves to cover the cost of accessibility improvements.
Despite the pandemic’s setbacks, the optimism about the facility’s potential remains high. Construction work began last fall. Much of it entails bringing the building up to code, including a new fire alarm system and remodeling of restrooms for ADA compliance. Many design updates have been incorporated into the work as well, including adding new exterior doors and painting the interior with a modern, inviting color scheme.
A major benefit to the facility is its location in Centennial Park, which provides a large outdoor space and the potential for outdoor programming, something The Abbey lacked. Centennial Park is also being developed this year and the park plans include features that will serve the adult population, such as adult fitness equipment and a shelter with plaza.
The decision to repurpose the building rather than rebuild allows the Park District and community to take pride in maintaining what we have with the resources available.
The Park Board and staff look forward to welcoming the community to Centennial Recreation Center once construction is completed later this spring. With a larger, upgraded facility that provides for expanded programming options, older adults will once again have a home for socializing and learning at the Park District that will also allow for expanded opportunities for adults of all ages.