The Park District of Oak Park Board of Commissioners was joined by members of the Park District Citizens Committee last Thursday night as principals from Williams Architects presented three possible short-term renovation scenarios for the park district’s 218 Madison Street headquarters.

Those options would cost between $1.131 and $1.263 million, figures which include $834,000 in what Williams Architects referred to as crucial “basic upgrades” required regardless of whether additional renovations are approved. Those upgrades include replacement of the antiquated heating and air-conditioning system, total replacement of the existing roof structure, and reconstruction of the basement ceiling, among other things.

Superintendent of Recreation Matt Ellmann, who is overseeing the planning project, started things off with a brief overview of the building’s park district history. Purchased in 1986 for $145,000, the building underwent $669,000 in renovations in 1987, creating the current space configuration. Over the past 19 years, he said, they have outgrown the space.

“Almost from the very beginning we outgrew the building,” noted Park District Executive Director Gary Balling.

The park district retained Williams in June to develop a project plan and time line. The firm worked with Ellmann and other park district staff over the summer, assessing the building’s current condition, and developing a series of three short-term renovation options over the next three years, as well as long-term options. The plans are focused on the three main functions currently housed at 218 Madison-the popular gymnastics center, parks administration, and the district’s Building & Grounds maintenance operations. In addition, the park district is contending with a significant lack olf parking for mantenance and staff vehicles.

A key goal of the process is to “enhance” the gymnastics center and increase the efficient use of space throughout the rest of the building.

“The whole process is being driven by gymnastics,” Balling told the park board. However, there is also a growing demand to expand the maintenance operation currently housed in the building. Projected long-term space needs for gymnastics, maintenance and administration total 52,600 square feet, far exceeding the current 21,200 square feet of usable space, even with a proposed addition to the building’s second floor.

Superintendent of Buildings & Grounds Mike Grandy noted that space allotments made back in 1986 involved “a series of compromises,” based on what was available, rather than what was needed. “We had to do what we had to do,” Grandy said, adding that it’s time the district began looking at some new options.

“It’s no secret that [gymnastics] needs more space,” he said. “So does the maintenance department.”

By the meeting’s end, there appeared to be a consensus for option 3, which would expand the gymnastic center and increase the building’s total square footage to 23,410 square feet. It was also clear that either the gymnastics center or the maintenance operation would eventually have to be moved to another site. The administrative operations would stay at 218 Madison under all three renovation options.

Balling confirmed that a move was inevitable, saying towards the end of the meeting, “We’re going to keep two of the three operations together. The question is, which two.”

Ellmann said that Williams Architects will be refining their current estimates for inclusion in a power point presentation to be made to the park board at its October 5 Committee of the Whole meeting at which commissioners will discuss at the issue further. A formal decision on the plan could take place as early as the board’s Oct. 19 meeting. The formal plan will then become part of the park’s Master Plan, and will be incorporated into the district’s capital improvement plan.

In other park board business:

Commissioner Mark Gartland noted he and Commissioner Christine Graves traveled to Springfield to make their case for a $399,000 state OSLAD grant for improvements at Field Center. Gartland said a decision from the state on the grant is expected some time in October.

Board Vice President Tom Philion told the board that the ad hoc committee studying historic stewardship issues related to the park district’s three historically significant fieldhouses at Carroll, Field and Andersen centers is close to issuing a report on their findings. The report should be ready by the board’s October Committee of the Whole meeting, with action to be taken at the October board meeting.

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