The Park District of Oak Park is staying put. And for that we are grateful.
In September the park board asked its architectural firm to evaluate what will be necessary to renovate its long-time headquarters at 218 Madison St. now that the Gymnastics Center has vacated its large portion of the building with the opening of a new facility on Lake Street at Humphrey. The move of the young gymnasts frees up considerable space at the rear of the Madison building which can now be turned over to an expanded Buildings and Grounds Department.
This was the original plan the park board had considered when it explored options for growing the cramped gymnastics center. Somewhere along the way, though, the park board took a frustrating detour and began considering a range of options for both its headquarters and it building department. There was talk of buying into the long-stalled Madison-Highlands office project. There were discussions of teaming up with District 97s elementary schools to build a new headquarters behind Oak Park's village hall. We didn't like that idea when it was first proposed and we'll be glad when the school district drops the notion, too.
The park district's headquarters building is a key anchor on a challenging strip of Madison Street. Investing in that property – anyone else remember the exceptionally derelict auto painting franchise in that building? – is the right thing for Madison Street, for the park district and for taxpayers.