District 97 still eyeing Oak Park village hall land

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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

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.

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

Reader Comments

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Rick Boultinghouse from Oak Park  

Posted: June 14th, 2013 2:52 PM

If D97 wants to put their money where their mouths are and share a facility owned by the village or D97 and return their property to commercial use and back on the tax rolls, let them build their new office in a NEW SCHOOL BUILDING. That will satisfy their itch to have a new space and make an investment in at least one school property. Plus it may help D97 better understand what the schools are dealing with like substandard HVAC. Their focus should be on students and teachers.

Amy Williams from Oak Park  

Posted: June 14th, 2013 11:23 AM

"The plan...fizzled...after the project drew...opposition from...neighbors living near village hall." As a resident of the very organized, determined & extremely vocal block of 600 S. Lombard I say again - no one who lives near the Village Hall wants this project. We will fight it absolutely every step of the way. There are many reasons why this project is ill-conceived, a key one being increased traffic and congestion for a block w/ many young children that is already a race track. Game on!

dystOPia from OP  

Posted: June 14th, 2013 6:32 AM

If D97 can't even fix a leaky roof, why should they be entrusted with a new building? Send village building inspectors over, post their inspection report with violations online, and then hold D97 board and staff accountable. D97 board needs to focus on education, and stop wasting our time and taxes on legacy buildings.

Martha from Oak Park  

Posted: June 13th, 2013 5:23 PM

This should come as no surprise with Peter Barber, a champion of this idea, having moved from the D97 Board to a position as a Village Trustee. The continued brazenness of D97 Admins & Board complaining about the condition of the District office when they continue to take no real action to improve the deplorably hot conditions in our schools amazes me. As does the Villiage's amoral, unwillingness to hold D97 accountable as another institution charged with proper stewardship of tax payers' funds.

Fix the schools  

Posted: June 13th, 2013 4:13 PM

Agree with you Todd. Had to go in one of the D97 schools for the first time and couldn't believe what a dump it was. Our kids deserve better. Time to move these schools into the 21st century. A new admin building can wait until after that.

Todd Kirby from Oak Park  

Posted: June 13th, 2013 3:24 PM

My stance hasn't changed. Until they fix and update the schools, they don't get a new office. One of their complaints is that the office doesn't have adequate HVAC yet most of the schools don't have AC at all. The third floor classrooms at Longfellow on an 80 degree day are 90 degrees plus.

M Badynee  

Posted: June 13th, 2013 3:07 PM

Why won't they learn? Trust me when I tell you this...OUR NEIGHBORHOOD AND STREET DOES NOT WANT THIS.

Living on a budget from Oak Park  

Posted: June 13th, 2013 10:07 AM

I want to build a new house too. Oh wait, I can't afford to do that. Looks like I'll just maintain the (very) old house I am in.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 13th, 2013 8:19 AM

Well, looks like we are back to this issue again. I still see no compelling need for D97 to get a brand new building other than it would be nice. What bothers me more is that the money seems to be there. So of course, we need to find ways to spend it. My question is why do they have all this money. Maybe it time to put some of it back in the taxpayers pocket instead of the status quo of spend, spend, spend.


Posted: June 12th, 2013 9:26 AM

Why can't D97 maintain its own building like any other building owner in Oak Park? The D97 is newer than most houses in OP. If the building is actually 'dilapidated', it is due to D97 neglect, and should be reported to village inspectors. Mr. Spatz should fix the leaky roof, stop complaining, and stop spending our tax dollars on pet projects.

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