The West Cook YMCA has launched a series of focus groups designed to gauge the feasibility of opening a second location — and the first outside of its Oak Park headquarters — on the site of a vacant Menards at 8311 W. North Avenue in Melrose Park.
Phillip Jimenez, the West Cook YMCA’s president and CEO, announced in April that the organization was looking to expand. Since then, West Cook YMCA officials have begun a six-month due diligence process.
So far, West Cook YMCA officials have signed a purchase agreement; announced, in partnership with the Proviso Mental Health Commission, the creation of an exploratory committee that will facilitate the six-month vetting process; and conducted a member feasibility study related to the prospective new location.
So far, the West Cook YMCA has held three community stakeholder focus group sessions. The first, on July 23, was at its Oak Park flagship facility while two were held on July 24 and July 25 at the Maywood-Melrose Park-Broadview District 89 administrative building, 906 Walton St. in Melrose Park. The July 24 session was in Spanish.
Three more stakeholder focus group sessions are scheduled for the following dates:
Tuesday, July 30, 7 p.m., at the Forest Park Middle School Library, 925 Beloit Ave. in Forest Park
Thursday, Aug. 1, 6 p.m., at Amita Health Center,1414 Main St. in Melrose Park. This session is in Spanish.
Friday, Aug. 2, 11 a.m., at the Proviso Township Mental Health Commission, 4565 Harrison St. (third floor), in Hillside
Once the focus group sessions are completed, the West Cook YMCA will launch an environmental study on the site.
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, according to previous Village Free Press reporting.
“Proviso had just done a comprehensive study with sixth-graders, nearly 900 of them at various school districts and some stark realities started to come through,” Jimenez said at the time. “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.”
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 in April.
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.
“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 in April. “Before the end of 2019, we’re going to have to know that answer.”