Oak Park halts renovation work at township senior center

But new government offices still expected to open on schedule

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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

The Village of Oak Park halted the construction of a new Oak Park Township senior center Tuesday afternoon, amid worries following the collapse of a property on Harrison Street this past summer.

An inspector slapped the orange "stop work" order on the front of 126-134 S. Oak Park Ave. around 3 p.m., according to Township Supervisor David Boulanger. The township had carved five large, rectangular holes in the side of building recently, with plans to add windows, and inspectors worried they might cause instability.

"They said we needed to shore up that wall a bit more because they've had a bad experience recently with collapsing brick walls," Boulanger said, referring to a Harrison Street property that partially collapsed in August after a contractor performed unpermitted work. "They didn't want to take any chances."

Steve Witt, the director of Building and Property Standards, and Lee Harris, the inspector who issued the order, could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Boulanger said they planned to put jacks in place Wednesday to help strengthen the property, and he expects the project will fall about a day behind schedule.

For more than a decade, the township has been scouring for a new place to put its senior services — now located in a cramped spot on the fifth and sixth floors of the Oak Park Arms retirement hotel on Oak Park Avenue. It's been there for about 15 years, paying annual rent of about $120,000 for 6,500 square feet of space.

The renovations are expected to be much more than originally anticipated, according to Boulanger, totaling up to $2 million, including the purchase price, up from $1.2 million. He expects the new senior center to open on time in June.

"We're still feeling very good about it and there's been nothing knocking us off track," Boulanger said.

Reader Comments

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Q from Oak Park  

Posted: November 30th, 2011 1:21 PM

Jim Coughlin, I also have mentioned and maybe the wise building inspectors have done this by now, that it should be barricaded off so no one gets hurt until the contractor resolves the problem. I have also mentioned that there needs to be provisions made so if the contractor does not remedy a dangerous situation that the village has recourse to hire another contractor to resolve it, and have that cost charged back to the original contractor who would not return to work until it was paid.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: November 30th, 2011 1:16 PM

Jim Coughlin, the only reason the Village went to correct this violation is because I posted this was another accident waiting to happen just like Harrison street and it lacked support. Don't think the village found this problem. They don't have the time. Tom Architect is correct. All this is the responsibility of the contractor and it's the responsibility of the inspectors to inspect to make sure the contractor did it. That is where the missing link is. It's with the inspectors.

Tom Architect from Oak Park  

Posted: November 30th, 2011 1:06 PM

Mr. Builder, it's accepted practice, written in AIA construction contracts and enforced in courts of law that the contractor is responsible for temporary shoring. The Architect and structural engineer are only responsible for final installed performance.

Nick from Oak Park  

Posted: November 30th, 2011 9:48 AM

Why this building is being converted from a mixed-use commercial building to a senior center is beyond me. Some day, the economy will come back and this building would be better suited housing retail and offices or residential above. This is the wrong place for a senior center.

Tom Builder  

Posted: November 30th, 2011 7:02 AM

Contractors are not responsible for hiring structural engineers. The architect should have contracted one, in order to update the plans with their recommendations. Any additional cost for shoring not in the plans should be paid for by the senior center, unless the contractor ignored the plans.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: November 29th, 2011 10:15 PM

Chain of command for this project? It appears a lot of folks who should have known better failed to comply with construction codes. Good work by Village staff to recognize the problems. What caused projected costs to nearly double?

Maggie from Oak Park  

Posted: November 29th, 2011 9:48 PM

Did our "wonderful" elected officials ever hear of a structural engineer? Do they have a capable project manager? None of this would happen if thy hired responsible contractors.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: November 29th, 2011 9:16 PM

There are plenty of violations that can be given to the Village for their own property. They have areas in Oak Park that can bring law suits against the Village. Check around Harlem and South Blvd.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: November 29th, 2011 9:15 PM

j.oakpark and Professor Peter Van Nostrand, Inspectors are sent out to give homeowners violations but they can't keep track of what contractors are doing. This is not just a kitchen remodeling job hidden from the street. Inspectors driving Oak Park avenue could do what I did. Just drive through the ally and notice what was torched away with no supports. This is a fine example of what may have happened on Harrison st. Harrison recommendations? Hire more Inspectors? B.S. Fire Inspectors


Posted: November 29th, 2011 8:51 PM

Hi Q, I did not see your post last week...do you mean to say that the contractor actually removed, torched out, the old lintel? Temporary blocking could have been placed...but by the photos clearly that did not. Thanks, Q, for your post.

Professor Peter Van Nostrand  

Posted: November 29th, 2011 8:20 PM

Nice work Q ! Now, VOP, may we have the name of this substandard contractor ?

Professor Peter Van Nostrand   

Posted: November 29th, 2011 8:15 PM

I forget who it was, but just last week someone posted on this website that this was an accident waiting to happen. Nice observation !

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: November 29th, 2011 8:13 PM

Because of the danger this presents, the inspectors should have immediately called out barricades and closed off the area until the builder corrected the danger within 24 hours. If not, the Village needs to have it on the books that some other contractor can be brought in to correct it, and bill the contractor, who can not continue work until the Village paid for the cost of the repairing contractor.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: November 29th, 2011 8:10 PM

Thanks W.J. Glad I posted the building violations of what was going by not supporting the wall where the lintel was torched away. Without my post being put in the public, the building department could have easily said, we didn't know, and it's not our fault. Any time an opening is made that can interfere with the integrity of a structure, it is require that something will be placed to prevent collapse. Inspectors need to put more ass into their work or fire them.


Posted: November 29th, 2011 8:02 PM

Why would they have not put in a steel lintel? It is simple and cheap...besides being right. And I wonder why the inspector wasn't there on the day that the work started? I suppose it doesn't matter, because a "study" would have been done and found the village not responsible...wink, wink.

Ronald from Oak Park  

Posted: November 29th, 2011 7:38 PM

Maybe the voters in Oak Park should slap a "Stop Work Order" on Oak Park Township. It's high time we put a stop to all their needless spending. This is an outdated form of government that only makes sense in a rural setting. Do what Evanston did and fold the township into the village. Taxpayers would save money in the long and short run.

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