D97 administration building repairs run upwards of $2 to $3M


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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

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advised the district to consider replacing the many buttresses supporting the roof, noting that only a handful have been replaced by the district.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. 

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

D97 Administration Building Summary

Reader Comments

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Amy Williams  

Posted: December 2nd, 2013 12:23 PM

I now have 18 x 24 NO D97 BLDG HERE yard signs if anyone would like one for their front yard - message me at poetgirl67@comcast.net and I can deliver to your home. Cost is $6.66 each if you are able to reimburse. We only have a few days left to spread the word about the 12/14 community forum...


Posted: November 26th, 2013 7:01 PM

Speedway; if you want to check on the debts of various Oak Park governments, go to the Illinois Comptroller's "Warehouse".


Posted: November 26th, 2013 8:25 AM

To everyone who is upset about D97's ridiculous desire to spend $$$$ on fancy digs - Please Please Please remember this for the next board elections. Start organizing now for candidates. And keep in mind that the words "state of the art" are code for "spend more money". We need more focus on outcomes and less on new ways to spend money.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 24th, 2013 11:03 PM

It would be interesting to know how much debt OP'ers are collectively indebt for from our various taxing bodies. Now D97 wants to increase your debt with their wishes for a new structure. Say NO to D97.

Tired of Taxes from Oak Park   

Posted: November 24th, 2013 3:07 PM

Just when we got the news that the super-rich District 200 might give us a teeny-weeny tax break, now comes this hokum from District 97. I seriously feel like vomiting.

Oak Park  

Posted: November 22nd, 2013 12:27 PM

D97 is taking a page from the Village playbook, in claiming the current building is aging and deteriorated, in order to justify the expense of a new legacy building. The Village is doing the same thing with the Lake / Forest Parking Garage. The STR report includes normal repair and maintenance costs for the admin building, which every building experiences in time. Buildings are not disposable, and D97 is responsible for maintaining its building in a cost efficient manner, as a public steward.

Amy Williams  

Posted: November 21st, 2013 8:08 PM

@Q, my main goal is not having an office bldg jammed in a pkg lot just yards from my house, bc our area already has tons of traffic and congestion that wld only be made worse. I also think it's an imprudent use of money, when there less $$ options like renting office space, buying a smaller bldg, etc. I've brought up AC before bc our NOD97BLDG grp includes many people w/ many objections vs this project, including no AC, taxes, traffic, Madison corridor, not green, TIF use, etc. Much not 2 like!!

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: November 21st, 2013 7:01 PM

Amy Williams, if having air conditioning for kids is your main goal, and you have mentioned it, then not a lot of people are going to go along with you. People work through the year, the kids spend a few hot day's in school. The kids with get air conditioning eventually. I agree that spending a few more million dollars is not necessary, and if it was their own money, they would not be spending it.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: November 21st, 2013 4:38 PM

Who current owns the building--D97 or the Village?

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: November 21st, 2013 4:23 PM

Even if D97 sold this building, the same repairs and costs would need to be made, or deducted from the building sale price. I find it amazing that there existed so many fire code violations, such as fire doors opening the wrong way, and lack of fire-rated walls. If we have peeling paint on our garage, the village gives us a violation notice. Why have these fire code violations been allowed to remain uncorrected for the past 10 years by the Village and D97?

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: November 21st, 2013 4:04 PM

The old Boy Scout building on the 900 block of Madison is up for rent. That and the old gas station lot for parking across Kenilworth make an interesting location.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: November 21st, 2013 3:47 PM

I would like more information about how the current D97 building is being used. In other words, how much space do they need? I think that is highly relevant in determining how to move forward. As an example, I look at the honkin' huge post office on Lake Street as not reflective of life in the 21st century.

Amy Williams  

Posted: November 21st, 2013 3:19 PM

@Speedway - took off references to AC if that makes you feel better!

Amy Williams  

Posted: November 21st, 2013 3:08 PM

@Q and @Speedway - thx for tips. @Speedway - included AC because I've found people are against the bldg for many reasons and didn't want to leave anyone out - some live nearby & are against traffic, some have kids and feel it's wrong to have a new bldg if kids don't have AC, some are worried about increased taxes, some are worried about Madison corridor, not being green, etc.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 21st, 2013 3:04 PM

@ A Parent - The idea of choosing another site rather than the village hall parking lot is a good one. The current D97 building is too large now with the gymnastics program gone. The Dominicks site would be even larger and that would take one of our biggest tax bases off the tax rolls. Not something we would want to do. I heard D97 has only 12 employees in their current building.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 21st, 2013 2:57 PM

@ Neighbor - Last year when D97 and the OPPD wanted to share a bldg. on the parking lot of village hall the costs were up to $10 million. That's a lot more than $2-3 million to repair. @ Amy - Went to your site and feel you should not include the a/c with your proposal. These are two different things. I am not sure about the a/c at this time so didn't sign up. Sorry.


Posted: November 21st, 2013 2:44 PM

So what upgrades are pressing vs. what would be nice to have? I suspect most Oak Park homes violate some codes too.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: November 21st, 2013 1:43 PM

Amy Williams, don't rely on the posting board to get anyone to sign it. Form a group of members and have them get out to the public. Make it simple when talking with people. Let them know in 150 characters or less. Have them use their smart phone and send an email as you are still talking with them. Have them tweet it out and send it on facebook. After you get 15 thousand people to agree with you, you can invite them through social media to the new building at Lombard and Madison street.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: November 21st, 2013 1:14 PM

I found the meeting on D97's calendar. It's on Saturday, December 14th. Bright and early at 8:30 in the morning. At Village Hall, 123 Madison Street.

Amy Williams  

Posted: November 21st, 2013 12:33 PM

I waited at that meeting over 3hrs to speak for 3min against a new bldg. One of the comments made by the board was "we can get emails from 50-100 people but that doesn't represent the views of all of OP." Let's prove them wrong - if you are against a new bldg please sign our petition at www.tinyurl.com/NOD97BLDG Each time it is signed an email goes to D97 and VOP. And please plan on coming to the 12/14 community forum - not sure about time or place yet.

A. Parent  

Posted: November 21st, 2013 10:04 AM

No new construction! How about soon to be vacant Dominic's?Before the Madison offices get A/C update, the elementary schools should get A/C. By the way, there's a lot of dead wood working in District 97 offices. Trim away and adjust those inflated salaries for admin. They are not in line with current market...maybe with North shore market, but not OP.

Neighbor from Oak Park  

Posted: November 20th, 2013 11:14 PM

Most of us get more than one estimate when work is need on our property as well as more than one medical opinion before major surgery. Agree with comments below. However, perhaps a new building would offset future maintenance costs?District 97, what is your rationale for spending an extra million for new construction. And why should I have to ask? This should have been included in your initial presentation to tax papers even if via media.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 20th, 2013 10:34 PM

From reading this article, this is my take. A firm was commissioned to look at the building and find everything wrong with it and what it would cost to fix. We could do that with our homes too and come up with a fine figure as well. The building is too large for this group now but building them what they are requesting is not on my agenda tax wise.


Posted: November 20th, 2013 8:41 PM

Well golly, we better build them a brand spanking new building then.

Maggie from Oak Park  

Posted: November 20th, 2013 8:05 PM

I agree with 7ofus. How many bids did they get on this job?


Posted: November 20th, 2013 8:02 PM

Even at inflated prices, I'm guessing it will still be cheaper than building a new building complete with underground parking. I've been in the current building and it seems fine to me. Every building requires some upkeep.


Posted: November 20th, 2013 6:49 PM

Inflated estimate. I've recently been in this facility. Are you gilding gold the toilet seats for these kind of numbers?

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