On Monday, Senior Services of Will County held a groundbreaking event to celebrate its new upscale venue for seniors.
The venue, known as the Ovation Center, will be housed in the former Target building, located at 349 S. Weber Road in Romeoville.
Senior Services completed its purchase of the property on Aug. w8. Projected opening date is 2021.
Barry Kolanowski, chief executive officer of Senior Services, said construction will take approximately seven to 10 months.
He said the name "Ovation Center" underscores Senior Services' desire to “applaud a life well-lived” by providing a large number of services to seniors 60 and up under one roof.
“The Ovation Center is not just a building. It’s a way of life,” Kolanowski said. “Our whole premise is about raising people’s lives and making it better for them.”
The building has 70,000 to 80,000 square feet of space and is only about 15 minutes away from the current building at 251 N. Center St. in Joliet, he said.
That building is not closing, will continue to hold activities and will be renamed the regional office for Senior Services, Kolanowski said.
But the sheer size of the Ovation Center will help bring seniors back to in-person activities even if the coronavirus is still a concern.
For example, the Ovation Center’s ballroom could hold 860 people for a concert. But even with social distancing guidelines, 100 people could still, theoretically, attend, Kolanowski said.
“There would be check-in at the door,” he said. “Masks and hand sanitizer would be right at the entrance...we'll follow the rules but we'll have more options."
Kolanowski said Seniors Services is also replacing the rooftop HVAC system on the Ovation Center for one with better filtration.
“The whole covid situation has made us aware that we need to be much more careful about these things,” Kolanowski said.
Much strategic planning went into choosing the Ovation Center's location, Kolanowski said. Research showed that approximately 30,000 seniors live within 10 miles of the new center, he said.
However, the current building is unable to meet that need due to its limited space, both inside the building and in the parking lot, Kolanowski said.
“Right now, the Center Street location is maxed out with line dancing to 15 to 20 people,” Kolanowski said.
The center even added additional locations and class times for line dancing, as well as for Tai chi, both popular senior activities, he said.
“Here we’ve got parking space for 600 cars and 10,000 square feet in [just] one room,” Kolanowski said. “Our rooms can easily hold a larger number of people and all our activities will be able to go on steroids.”
Senior Services is also incorporating a lease model for the Ovation Center. The community can rent space for large gatherings such as weddings and conferences.
In addition to the ballroom, the center has six break-out rooms that can hold 100 people each, he said.
But the Ovation Center will also rent space to companies that provide services to seniors. One of those service providers will be Friends Over Fifty, a home care company.
Another is Silver Cross Hospital.
“We will be working with Senior Services to identify the needed specialties and primary care services for the new Ovation Center,” Ruth Colby, president and chief executive officers, said in an email. “Members of the Silver Cross medical staff will rotate through the center so that people will have easy access to care.”
Tenants might also include hair and nail salon and providers of physical therapy, massage, counseling, medical mobility and light housekeeping, Kolanowski said.
"People can stick their heads in and learn more about the service," Kolanowski said.
Other features are an all-season walking track around the interior of the building, a tiered membership plan and the Sobremesa coffee shop, which veterans will operate, Kolanowski said.
"Sobremesa" means "conversation around the table," he said.
"We want seniors to come out, be active and socialize with other seniors," Kolanowski said.
But some seniors shy away from "senior centers" because they sound like they're for "old people," he said. So Senior Services is "raising the game," he added.
"And we'll still have Bingo once a month," Kolanowski added.
Senior Services of Will County provides case management, simple home maintenance, health screenings, fitness classes, transportation assistance, education about life empowerment issues and various social activities.
For more information, call 815-723-9713 or visit willcountyseniors.org.