The West Cook YMCA is considering another location within the west suburbs, the organization announced during its annual fundraising gala, held April 27 in Oak Brook.
During an interview on Monday, West Cook YMCA President and CEO Phillip Jimenez said the YMCA is poised to finalize a purchase-sale agreement this week with the owner of the vacant Menards, 8311 W. North Avenue in Melrose Park.
Jimenez said the agreement gives the West Cook YMCA six months to conduct due diligence, which would include holding numerous stakeholder sessions to get community input about the project, conducting a member feasibility study, evaluating the condition of the site, and gauging the funding potential through a capital campaign, among other factors.
Jimenez said the YMCA would invest an estimated $250,000 to $300,000 in the various components of that six-month due diligence process.
“At the end of that process, we’re going to come together and say it’s either a go or no-go, and based on that we’ll determine whether or not we actually purchase the property and how long it will take us to build out,” Jimenez said. “Before the end of 2019, we’re going to have to know that answer.”
Jimenez emphasized that patrons who attend the West Cook YMCA’s Marion Street flagship facility in Oak Park would not be affected during those six months. He added that, if the organization ends up developing a Melrose Park location, the Oak Park flagship would not be negatively impacted.
“At this point, until there’s a new facility, there will be absolutely no change here,” Jimenez said. “We are by no means divesting in the Oak Park facility. If anything, we’ll be doing what we always do — looking for ways to improve the facility.”
Jimenez said the decision to expand into Melrose Park was the result of a conversation he had in 2017 with Jesse Rosas, executive director of the Proviso Mental Health Commission.
“Proviso had just done a comprehensive study with sixth-graders, nearly 900 of them at various school districts and some stark [health and wellness] realities started to come through,” Jimenez said. “That got them thinking, how will we build our capacity to address some of this. A lot of it had to do with after-school enrichment and support.”
By May 2018, Jimenez said, the West Cook YMCA and the Proviso Mental Health Commission had developed a memo of understanding.
“We gave ourselves a year to evaluate whether or not we could make something happen,” Jimenez said. “We then started considering different sites and I kept coming back to the Menards site.”
The roughly 160,000-square-foot building — which is surrounded by some 400 parking spaces, and lumber and gardening areas that could also be redeveloped — is “one of those unique spaces, where no one knows if its Maywood, Melrose Park or River Forest.”
Jimenez said the Menards site is roughly three miles further into the West Cook YMCA’s service area — which comprises 10 communities and extends as far west as Bellwood and Stone Park, and as far north as Franklin Park. The YMCA’s current Oak Park flagship is located near the easternmost border of its service area.
Jimenez said “if money wasn’t an option,” the former Menards, which has been vacant for roughly six years, would be home to a variety of preventive care and chronic disease programs, a natatorium and a food court serving healthy meals, among other services.
He said his team has already spoken to area hospitals about partnering to provide health and wellness services, and that a municipality has agreed to locate its emergency services center at the Melrose Park site. There would also be a 24/7 police presence.
Jimenez stressed, however, that all of these ideas are tentative and the redevelopment of the site, if it happens, would ultimately be affected by available funds. Jimenez declined to reveal how much the YMCA would pay for the building before the purchase agreement is finalized.
Jesse Rosas could not be reached for comment by deadline.