Printer Friendly

One-stop 'streetscape.'.

VILLAGE OF ARLINGTON HEIGHTS SENIOR CENTER, ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, IL: A neglected grocery store goes from eyesore to asset as an innovative senior center.

We've all seen them: empty storefronts with soaped-up windows and faded banners. The residents of the Village of Arlington Heights, IL, were faced with such a problem. A grocery tore sat vacant in the retail center of the community. In addition to the underused retail facility, the community, one of the largest and oldest suburban areas of Chicago, was managing an overcrowded senior center. With innovative design, the modernization of the former supermarket led to a new and improved center for older residents.

Originally, the senior citizen center was housed in a 1950s-era former elementary school in a residential area of the suburbs. According to Brian Usher, superintendent of maintenance, Village of Arlington Heights Senior Center, the community was looking for a site to grow with them. "The building was small and cramped, a typical school with long corridors flanked by classrooms and no elevators. There was no room for expansion," he explains.

When the school district reclaimed use of the school, the center's original site, there was considerable community pressure to find a new and improved location. Speed was of the essence. However, the concept of modernizing the retail space was met with skepticism from some members of the community. Few could visualize the grocery store and its adjoining fraternal order lodge and liquor store as a viable community center. A move from the former residential area to a commercial section of town was also not looked on favorably. "The skepticism made this an intriguing process. We had to be very creative and very function-focused in planning this project," says Usher.

Along with overcoming the reservations of some senior citizens, planners concentrated on developing a highly flexible facility that delivered a myriad of services. The center's planners held extensive meetings with local senior citizen advocacy groups to create a truly responsive building. "We also had focus group meetings of 20 to 30 seniors during the planning and programming stage," says Robert Robiosek, project principal-in-charge, Environ Inc., Chicago. The architectural commission of the community also reviewed and approved the external overall design.

Defining, Then Refining Needs

The new Village of Arlington Heights Senior Center involved issues of healthcare, amenities, recreation, and education. "In addition to durable finishes, we wanted finishes that were comfortable, warm, and inviting. A homey feeling best suited our needs," says Usher. Select senior citizen groups chose the site's warm palette of greens and beiges.

Because of Illinois' long, harsh winters, the architectural firm, Environ Inc., created an inviting streetscape. The sizable floorplate allowed for generous interior sidewalks. Traditional exterior elements, such as wooden park benches, generous flower-filled planters, and striped awnings, add to the outdoorsy fuel. Measured in miles for easy reference, the main perimeter corridor doubles as a walking track for exercising in a controlled environment. A garden-style cafe seating area with wrought iron tables and chairs complements the streetscape appearance. In addition, ornate lamp posts and hanging storefront: signage lend an old-fashioned aesthetic to the streetscape design. "Seniors are comfortable with what is familiar to them. The interior reflects this," explains Robiosek.

Such nostalgia extends into the special activities rooms. One of the facilities' highlights, for example, is the billiards room. A tin-stamped ceiling and deluxe furnishings make this popular hangout for senior men eye-catching. Natural light emanating from skylights located at the senior center's four main corners enliven the streetscape hallways. Windows in the activity, spaces mimic storefronts, allowing much-needed daylight into the building's central core. The windows also encourage social interaction by visually connecting rooms to the hallways.

Users of the Village of Arlington Heights Senior Center range from well seniors to individuals with major illnesses, limited mobility, and impaired visual ability. Simulated cobblestone flooring in hallways ties into the city-street style, while ensuring slip-resistance. Diffused, indirect lighting, in the form of wall sconces and two- by two-foot overhead fluorescent fixtures, reduces glare and offers high-quality lighting for seniors with compromised eyesight. Contrasting color tile helps demarcate flooring from walls, visually guiding seniors through the facility. Handrails throughout further reduce the danger of slips and falls.

Variety Ensures Interest

Many senior centers attract a predominantly female population. To attract senior men as well as women, special programming, such as wood working, weight training, and billiards, was implemented. With two kilns for ceramics, art and computer classes, exercise equipment areas, a health clinic, and a library, the facility caters to a wide range of interests. To add flexibility, movable partitions can divide the large central multipurpose room into smaller rooms for lectures and dances, as needed. Because of its diversity, the Village of Arlington Heights Senior Center now draws roughly equal proportions of male and female senior citizens.

Space in the facility was also set aside for office rental to nonprofit agencies that provide valuable services for the elderly, such as Catholic Charities. In addition to generating revenue, the office portion of the facility offers convenience. Adds Robiosek, "This space can be used for a variety of functions - card-playing, movies, seminars and financial planning classes, and office spaces."

Along with its myriad of community services, the senior center is an inviting, hospitable place. The main tower entrance with a skylight introduces the lobby. Designed on the model of a four-star hotel, the lobby features a high, vaulted ceiling and a luxurious central fireplace. The vast ceiling space of the facility allows for a dramatic entry and lobby. The space, a favorite among end-users and staff members, is frequently used for visiting and small impromptu meetings.

Welcoming Presence

The exterior of Village of Arlington Heights Senior Center is as pleasant as its interior. Because the center is located in a commercial section of the town, the facility's facade was designed to complement adjoining retail buildings. For a civic appearance, substantial corner towers and a masonry colonnade were grafted to the facility. "We used colored brick and glazed block to add accent to the outside. The improvements raised the value of the entire area," says Robiosek. Glazed block, ground-face block, and exterior insulation and finish system (EIFS) pilasters and banding joined the existing exterior white brick to renew the facility's outside, matching the new entrance while not contrasting with its neighbors.

Even the parking lot enhances the building's functionality. Environ designed the lot's aisles to funnel end-users toward the main entrance quickly. The colonnade further protects seniors from inclement weather. In the near future, a fully landscaped greenspace with a gazebo for exercising, barbecues, and other social events is scheduled. Exterior gas and power lines have already been installed for additional development of the greenspace.

"We have built-in flexibility. The large core allows us to mix and match activities. We could also expand the building. In 20 years, this facility will be just as applicable as it is today," says Usher. New and improved, the modernized facility, according to Robiosek, has well exceeded the community's expectations. Usage has increased 30 percent. Frequently, more than 250 members of Village of Arlington Heights' senior citizen community utilize this facility daily.

The center's planners attribute the project's success to the cooperation of many groups, including the public library that manages the center's reading room, nonprofit service organizations, senior citizen groups, and representatives of the Village of Arlington Heights. "The project was really a model project. We took a holistic approach to what seniors really want," says Robiosek. "What they want is their own place that offers programs they really like. This is really a one-stop shop."


OWNER/DEVELOPER: Village of Arlington Heights

ARCHITECT: Environ Inc.

CONTRACTOR: P.B. Verdico Inc.


CEILINGS: Armstrong; Chicago Metallic; Interfinish

ELECTRICAL/ELECTRONICS: ASCO; Electroline; Leviton; Thomas & Betts; Triangle

FACADE: Senergy; Trenwyth

FLOORCOVERINGS: American Olean; Harbinger; Johnsonite, Lonseal; Mannington

FURNITURE: Cabot; Knoll; Vecta; Wren

HARDWARE: Glynn-Johnson; Hager, Ives; LCN; Rockwood; Roton; Schlage;, Von Duprin

HVAC: Acme; Graham; Honeywell; Hydrotherm; Johnson Controls; Krueger; Sterling; Taco; Trane

INSULATION: Owens Corning


LIGHTING: Lightolier

PAINT: Benjamin Moore

PLUMBING: Chicago Faucet; Crane; Delta; Elkay; Fiat; Symmons



WALLCOVERINGS: Bolta; Design Tex; Innovations in Wallcoverings

WALLS/PARTITIONS: Georgia Pacific, Kwik-Wall; USG

WINDOWS/GLASS: Efco; LOF/Pilkington

Lists are not all-inclusive.

Regina Raidford ( is senior editor at Buildings magazine.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Stamats Communications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:renovation of Village of Arlington Heights Senior Center in Illinois
Author:Raiford, Regina
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Apr 1, 1999
Previous Article:An American icon.
Next Article:Reinvigorating retail.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters