By Terry Dean
Elementary School District 97 is still interested in moving its administration headquarters to village hall land as it contemplates closing its current Madison Street location.
School district officials were not deterred when the Park District of Oak Park last November pulled out of a proposed plan to build a joint administration building on the village hall parking lot. The village of Oak Park was brought into those talks after the plan was announced last September.
D97 is continuing talks with village government about building on village-owned land, according Bob Spatz, president of the D97 Board of Education. The parking lot is among the options being discussed, Spatz said.
The school district wants to depart from its 970 Madison St. digs for a newly-built space in town. Joint occupancy is still not out of the question, Spatz said.
Though it is their least desirable option, the district is open to renovating the current space and remaining there. But D97 officials say the building is old and dilapidated, with leaking roofs and occasional power outages, among other problems.
The school district moved into the property, a former car dealership, in the 1970s. D97 officials note that the plan was never to remain their permanently.
D97 and the village are also talking about how to pay for a new facility if built on village land, according to Spatz.
The plan with the park district was to use Madison TIF dollars allocated to D97 — estimated at around $6 million — to help pay for the facility, as well as deferred maintenance funds already sitting in the park's and school district's budget. Spatz said D97 and the village are currently discussing the Madison TIF options.
The plan between D97 and parks fizzled in November 2012 after the project drew vocal opposition from some residents, especially neighbors living near village hall. Parking and funding objections were raised by residents at two town hall meetings. Officials from the park district soon after announced their withdrawal from the project.
The plan called for a shared central office building for administrators and staff of the two taxing bodies. The village hall parking lot was the desired location, with an underground garage for staff suggested to ease parking woes. D97 and the parks would then likely utilize village hall for their board meetings.
D97's Madison Street building would subsequently be sold. The district has wanted to sell its headquarters and Madison Street warehouse since before the downturn in the housing market six years ago. A 2008 appraisal listed the 541 Madison St. warehouse at $1.6 million and the central office building at around $2.3 million. An October 2012 appraisal commissioned by D97, however, has both buildings valued at much less.
The administration building (roughly 19,000 square feet) is now valued at roughly $1.26 million and the warehouse (12,000 square feet) at $625,000, according to Appraisal Systems LCC based in Park Ridge.