By Marty Farmer
Despite considering several sites for a relocation of the Hedges Administrative Center, the Park District of Oak Park is staying put at its 218 Madison St. home.
"We explored multiple site options for buildings and grounds, gymnastics and administration over the past seven years," said Jessica Bullock, park board president. "Our current plans are to keep administration and buildings and grounds at 218 Madison to meet our operational needs within our existing budget."
In November 2012, the park district's board of park commissioners made an announcement discontinuing exploration of the possibility of a shared administrative facility with Oak Park Elementary School District 97 in the village hall parking lot.
Christine Graves, park board president at the time, issued the following statement at that time regarding the decision: "Our job is to look at all options when working to provide the best services, and parks and recreation facilities for Oak Park residents. We studied the shared facility proposal and listened to public questions and comments. After thoughtful consideration, we have decided to withdraw our involvement in this proposal."
While the park district administration and buildings and grounds departments remain at 218 Madison, the recent relocation of the Gymnastics and Recreation Center (opened Oct. 5 at 21 Lake St.) has already created multiple benefits for the park district. The space at The Hedges Administrative Center previously used for the gymnastics center will be converted to space for the buildings and grounds department.
A 2006 study on space at 218 Madison revealed that both the gymnastics center and buildings and grounds departments needed approximately double their existing space.
The recent changes have provided a win-win scenario for both entities. The newly opened GRC is an 18,670 square-foot facility allowing for more classes and activities, while also freeing up valuable room for the buildings and grounds department back at 218 Madison.
"With the opening of the GRC, the park district has been able to accommodate over 50 percent more students in the gymnastics program," said Diane Stanke, the park district's director of marketing and customer service, via email. "Doubling the space of the buildings & grounds department will provide adequate interior space for operations including storage space for equipment and supplies."
At its September meeting, the park board approved spending $31,850 with Chicago-based Nagle Hartray Architecture to explore needs regarding the renovation of the Hedges Administrative Center. In January 2013, the park district entered into a three-year agreement with Nagle Hartray Architecture for professional architectural services.
Nagle Hartray Architecture's analysis of 218 Madison will include architectural, structural, electrical code compliance and cost estimating for the pending renovation project, which the park district plans to go out for bid in 2014. Construction will not start at 218 Madison until the Ridgeland Common renovation is completed. Ridgeland Common is slated to reopen in 2014.