Exterior of the Community Activity Center. Photo by Wes Schmidgall.
NORMAL — Normal Township may have a new home for its Senior Center.
State Farm Insurance Cos. recently accepted the $600,000 bid that Normal Township submitted for the purchase of the former Illinois State University Rec Center, 500 N. Beech St., Normal. The McLean County Youth Hockey Association also submitted a bid for the purchase of the building, earlier this year.
During the township’s annual meeting that was held on April 16, Normal Township Supervisor Rich Farr announced that he received a signed contract from State Farm Cos., selling the Beech Street building to the township for $600,000.
According to the signed contract, the township has 30 days to inspect the building, before it closes on the property.
“We haven’t got a completed contract yet,” said Farr. “The contract says we have 30 days after it is signed by everybody to do our due diligence.”
Normal Township currently operates its Senior Center in the 12,000 square-foot, town-owned Community Activity Center, 1110 Douglas St., Normal. If the township purchases the 37,000 square-foot Beech Street building, located a few blocks from the Community Activity Center, it would relocate its Senior Center.
The township has been looking for a larger space for its Senior Center since a 2009 space needs study revealed a 30,000-square-foot facility was needed to accommodate growth.
“We had a survey done five years ago and that’s what’s been converted into a list of rooms and square footage requirements for those programs within those rooms,” said Farr.
The survey included a list of amenities that the township wants to offer at a new Senior Center facility. Those amenities include a media room with tiered seating for movies and presentations, a room for pool tables, a game room, an exercise room, an art room, coffee shop and walking track.
The township isn’t going to hire an engineer to design the new Senior Center, until its purchase agreement with State Farm Cos. is finalized.
“Until we own the building, we’re not going to put a lot of money in it,” said Farr. “We’ve not spent any money trying to come up with how do we put up new room arrangements and things like that because it’s pretty much a great big open space and we have to divide that into rooms for the different programs that we want to have operating in there. We have to do quite a bit of renovation.”
If it agrees to purchase the building, the township may or may not include the amenities outlined in the 2009 space needs study, in the new Senior Center.
“The plan is 4-5 years old,” said Farr. “We’re going to bring the consultant back and talk with them again as to what’s currently needed in senior centers. I don’t know if it will be putting six new rooms in or ten new rooms. It’s a matter of what’s going to give us the most for our remodeling money, get as close as we can to what we think is our ideal operating arrangement and how many of the new ideas can we actually get in there and afford.”
The township has $1.7 million to spend on the purchase and renovation of the Beech Street building. The $1.7 million was generated from a tax levy implemented in 2007. If the sale is complete and the Senior Center moves to the new location, the township will continue to levy the tax.
In 2010, the township tried to purchase the Community Activity Center from the town, but the two sides were unable to reach an agreement.
“We make due at the existing facility,” said Farr.
Normal City Manager Mark Peterson isn’t sure how the town would use the vacated space at the Community Activity Center. He said it could be used for town activities or community groups.
“It doesn’t cause a problem,” said Peterson.
The Town of Normal has a long-term lease with Heartland Theatre for some of the space in the Community Activity Center.
If the township purchases the Beech Street building, the new Senior Center would open in about a year, said Farr.
The Beech Street building served as the ISU Rec Center for nearly 20 years. ISU vacated the building in 2011 when it opened the state-of-the-art, 170,000 square-foot Student Fitness Center, 347 S. University St., Normal.