By Terry Dean
A major renovation of Oak Park District 97's Madison Street headquarters will cost nearly $3 million while the most minimal fix-up will run nearly $2 million, according to the elementary school district's architects.
The major renovation includes replacing the building's HVAC system and other repairs, including painting and also fixing parts of the roof. That work is estimated at roughly $2.8 million. The bulk of work for a roughly $1.7 million fix-up include replacing the water-cooled chillers and repairing the ceiling and lighting; the HVAC system would remain in place.
STR Partners, the district's architectural firm hired last summer, released its findings last week after assessing the administration building earlier this fall. According to its 58-page report, the 970 Madison St. building was found to be in "good and serviceable condition" but some problems need addressing.
The HVAC system is aged and needs replacing. The building's piping needs upgrading. The building's electrical panel boards, which are more than 50 years old, need replacing. Certain areas of the building also aren't up to fire code, STR Partners found. Except for access to the second floor, the building is relatively accessible for those with special needs.
STR Partners provided a lengthy list of repairs in its report to the D97 Board of Education on Nov. 19, including the two cost options. The building's workflow space and functionality for staff was not part of the assessment, but would need to be addressed as part of any renovation, according to the firm. STR Partners also advised the district to consider replacing the many buttresses supporting the roof, noting that only a handful have been replaced by the district.
The building, located atMadisonand Home, is a former car dealership that the district has used for its central office since the 1970s, but the plan, D97 officials insist, was never to remain there permanently.
The district has been looking for a new central office location since the mid-2000s. Talks are ongoing between the district and Village of Oak Park about possibly building a facility on the Village Hall parking lot at Madison and Lombard. The district is also considering buying the four-story, 101 Madison office building that's currently on the market for around $600,000.
A tour of that building, which is in need of its own repairs, is being scheduled, says Bob Spatz, president of the D97 school board. D97 is also in talks with the Madison-Highland office building project developers about possibly becoming a tenant in that property if it is built.
With respect to the administration building, D97 officials note that they're looking to downsize — the current space they say, is more than what is needed. The ongoing maintenance and repairs done to the building are also a cost to tax payers, officials note.
But some in the community accuse the district of wanting to ditch its current headquarters for a fancier, and more expensive, facility. D97 officials, however, insist its more about having a functional, workable space.
"Nobody gets excited about an administration building, but the costs of doing business here is very inefficient, both from a personnel standpoint as well as a structural viewpoint," said D97 Supt. Albert Roberts, noting that the business office was moved to the first floor due to the second floor's inaccessibility.
"I really believe, based on everything I've read and learned about since I've been here is that staying here — and I'm not saying where we should go — is going to be more costly, over time, than the alternative" Roberts said.