Despite the snowy aftermath of Chicago’s recent blizzard, community members and parents attended a District 97 Oak Park elementary school meeting Feb. 5 to receive an update on plans for the district’s new administration building.
The existing building, located at 970 W. Madison St., was originally a car dealership and was retrofitted four decades old for the school district. Officials have decided it is no longer viable and would cost $4 million to renovate.
The current headquarters, which spans about 20,000 square feet, houses the district’s print shop and multicultural center, in addition to a board room and office space.
“There are times where [workers] can see water dripping and there’s no elevator in the building,” said Bob Spatz, president of the D97 school board. “We’ve put minimal maintenance into the building. After doing a cost analysis, we decided it was more cost effective to build a new building.”
Preliminary plans for the new property were presented to a small audience at last week’s meeting. They include demolishing a long vacant Volvo dealership at 260 W. Madison St., building a new two-story, 22,000 square foot building in its spot and a parking lot with more than 20 parking spaces.
“I like the change in plans, but I didn’t like it a year and a half ago. They were talking about building behind Village Hall. It didn’t make sense,” said Anne Bowhey, a Percy Julian Middle School parent. “What I like about the new plan is that it’s on Madison Street at a dead auto dealer. It makes more sense to build on Madison where there’s an eyesore.”
The D97 administration building project is in the early design phase, according to Spatz. Architects from STR Partners will soon perform coring operations at the site to inspect the soil, which should be completed in May. They will report to the D97 board once a month.
“We’re trying to keep both the board and public informed with what we’re doing,” Spatz said. “I think we’ll get great advice from the architects.”
A focus group summary recognized possible challenges with the new property, which included parking for staff, visitors and events.
Certain parameters for the new property were also identified by the focus group summary, including long term fiscal responsibility, environmentally friendly and sustainable, a notable design and identifying partnerships where they benefit the needs of administration.
“We wanted to build something this community can be proud of and make sure it celebrates the successes of students and learning,” said Jennifer Costanza, operations principal at STR Partners, during her presentation last week.
Marcus Croom, a candidate for the D97 school board in the April election, said at minimum, the district should install solar panels in the new building to help reduce energy costs.
“We need to take green options and sustainability seriously and should look at how we can make the roof a green roof,” Croom said. “It’s important we have green options available and incorporate them. We can use solar paneling on a brand new building we plan on having for the next 50 years.”
More discussions and reports on the new administration building will take place at a series of community meetings scheduled in the future.
Michael Romain contributed to this report.