Facility Profile - April 2006
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Handy Solution

Cicero Senior Center
Cicero, Ill.

By Deborah Meyer Abbs

Instead of having to meet at a local restaurant to socialize, senior citizens in Cicero, Ill., now have a state-of-the-art senior center to congregate. Though it took some hard work: The 50-year-old building that is home to the 4,640-square-foot center was formerly a hardware store.

"Being a land-locked community [adjacent to Chicago], we were looking for a spot to put a senior center," says Dennis Raleigh, a town trustee.

To help solve the problem, the city hired Burnidge Cassell & Associates, Inc. (BCA) to see what it would take to rehab the building located on the south side of Cicero.

"When I first visited the site, it was just a raw space," says Daniel Atilano, AIA, principal at BCA who oversaw the project. The roof was exposed, and the inside was mostly wide open.

External site improvements included moving the main entrance from the front of the building to the side (for easier access), adding an entry canopy, re-roofing, installing new windows and fa├žade restoration. The building also has all new plumbing and electricity.

The inside of the Cicero Senior Center, which opened last August, is divided into three main spaces. The full kitchen has all stainless-steel appliances with a long breakfast (or anytime) bar where seniors are offered cooking classes. Computer terminals are located on the backside of the kitchen area, making a good use of space. The large multipurpose area has a built-in full-projection screen. Seniors often gather there to hear speakers and view presentations. Exercise classes such as tai chi also take place there every day, says Susan Banks, director of senior activities. In addition to the classes, a treadmill and stationary bike also are available for use. The third common area contains a utility sink for crafts, a library, and a lot of tables and chairs where people play games or just sit and chat.

Spunky seniors like Helen Antczak motivated the city to transform the building that had previously housed the hardware store into the new senior center.

Antczak, who has lived in Cicero her who whole life, calls the center "just beautiful." She enjoys the cooking classes, playing Bunko and cards.

"A group of us have been playing Sixty-Five [a card game] every day since it opened," Antczak says.

Many folks besides Antczak log plenty of time at the senior center, which is open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

"We normally have between 50 to 60 people depending on what events are offered and the weather," says James Terracino, the building supervisor.