CRIS seeks gift from Danville Cty Council to expand

DANVILLE — More than 500 seniors a day come to the CRIS Healthy Aging Center for services or activities and almost every office there houses two staff members.

Factor in a growing senior population that will need more services, requiring more staff and space at CRIS, and it's no surprise that CRIS officials are making plans to expand their facility and operations at 309 N. Franklin St.

Chief Executive Officer Amy Marchant said there's no set timeline for expansion, but it is the agency's strategic plan, and a proposed donation of three lots from the city will give the agency a "huge start."

The city council's public services committee will consider Tuesday donating several vacant lots to three different nonprofit groups, including three to CRIS at 319 and 323 Franklin St. and 108 W. Seminary St. The committee meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the municipal building, 17 W. Main St.

The three properties sit on the southeast corner of Franklin and Seminary streets.

The city ended up with the properties several years ago after the termination of Renaissance Danville, a nonprofit agency that was dedicated to rehabilitating older housing in the downtown area but ended up in financial trouble. The three properties each contained old, vacant houses that Renaissance officials intended to restore to single-family residences. City officials never found any private parties interested in buying and rehabbing the three houses and finally made the decision to demolish them.

The three properties, which are now vacant lots, are contiguous and separated from CRIS by only one house that's owned by Crosspoint Human Services, another nonprofit social-service agency at 210 Avenue C. Crosspoint houses people, including seniors, at that property. Marchant said it's a good fit with CRIS, because the seniors who live there use the CRIS facility.

Marchant said city officials have been supportive of creating space for CRIS to grow. She said space at the facility is already limited, and the property could also use more parking.

"We are bursting at the seams in our building," said Marchant, who added that the agency is managing for now. She said the strategic plan is to expand the agency as the local population of seniors increases over the next five, 10 and even 15 years.

According to the U.S. Department of Human Service's Administration on Aging, the number of people in Illinois over age 60 years in 2000 was 1.9 million and comprised about 15.8 percent of the state's population, and in 2030, there will be 3 million people in the state over age 60, comprising 23 percent of the population.

Marchant said CRIS is excited about the proposed donation and plans for expansion. She said the city choosing to donate the three lots will give CRIS "so much leverage when seeking federal funding." The donation can be used to fulfill local matching requirements in grant applications.

The public services committee will also consider another similar donation in the same area in west downtown. The Danville Art League owns the former Red Cross building across Franklin Street from CRIS, and city officials have proposed donating a vacant, grassy lot at 311 Oak St.

Roberta Williams with the art league said the group has been mowing and maintaining the lot, which is adjacent to its property, ever since the league has been in the building. She said the Red Cross did the same.

Williams said owning the space will allow the art league to spread out when hosting community events or events for children.

"It just expands our outdoor area," she said.

And finally, the council committee will consider donating a lot at 602 N. Walnut St. to Habitat for Humanity, which takes vacant lots and builds new homes for low-income residents. Doug Ahrens, public works director for the city, said the lot is near the site of previous Habitat builds.

The committee will also consider a lease with O'Neil Brothers Construction for office and warehouse space at Schomburg and Schomburg Construction's former property, which the city bought, because the Fairchild Street subway replacement project would cut off access to the business.

O'Neil Brothers won the contract for the subway replacement and will lease space at the former Schomburg site to house construction staff, equipment and materials. The city will also use space there for its engineers, who will be working on the project. Ahrens said O'Neil will lease the space for $1,300 a month, from July 16 of this year through May 22, 2014.

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