The former Lawnview Family and Child Center on South U.S. Route 68 will become the new home of the Madison-Champaign Educational Service Center.
The ESC board approved leasing the 39,000-square-foot facility at its Monday meeting. The lease is with the Champaign County Commission, which must approve it before the ESC can begin using the property.
The lease is for $1 annually for 10 years, with an option to automatically renew the lease for another 10 years. ESC Superintendent Dr. Dan Kaffenbarger said there is also the option to purchase the property. The ESC would be responsible for maintenance of the facility.
“It’ll be a good facility for the ESC to continue to grow,” he said.
The Lawnview facility has been the location of the ESC preschool in the past. The preschool moved to its current location at Urbana Local Intermediate school after the Champaign County Board of Developmental Disabilities board considered moving all its offices to Lawnview from its current location on East U.S. Route 36.
The developmental disabilities board changed its mind about moving all operations to Lawnview, Superintendent Laura Zureich said previously. It did move all its operations to the U.S. Route 36 location.
Lawnview has been empty since the developmental disabilities board moved out, though it has continued to maintain the building.
The Champaign County Commission owns the property, but the building has been used by the developmental disabilities board. When the structure was built in the 1970s, developmental disabilities boards could not own property, Kaffenbarger said.
Kaffenbarger said while the ESC board wanted to own the property, it could not afford purchasing the site and renovating, which are estimated to cost $250,000 to $300,000.
“It was a matter of affordability,” he said. “(The commissioners) were looking to sell it at fair market value. We weren’t prepared to do that. We wouldn’t have been able to purchase the building and renovate it, too. This allows the renovations to go forward, and then maybe we can buy it in the future.”
Renovations range from freshening the paint in some areas to knocking out walls and rearranging spaces to meet the ESC’s needs.
The facility will need to be hooked up to Urbana city water, Kaffenbarger said. That will be an additional cost.
The ESC board has been considering moving its operations for a while. It currently leases office space at the county Community Center on South U.S. Route 68 in Urbana, manages the preschool out of Urbana Local and has transitional programs at a location on Bodey Circle. Kaffenbarger said he estimates the ESC will save more than $50,000 annually by moving everything to Lawnview.
The new site will be large enough to house all ESC operations under one roof.
Kaffenbarger said the hope is to have everything moved by the beginning of next year to the new site, but that will depend on how quickly renovations are completed.
Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.
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