River Forest trustees approved construction of an enclosed walkway between two Concordia University Chicago buildings at a village board meeting on July 9, amid criticism over the new path’s lack of accessibility for those in a wheelchair.
The pedestrian walkway will connect the West Annex and the Christopher Center on the west side of campus. It will run 45 feet and sit more than 300 feet from Augusta Street, said Glen Steiner, assistant vice president for administration.
After a recent renovation of the first floor of the West Annex, Steiner said a donor stepped forward and awarded the university the approximately $400,000 necessary to construct the enclosed walkway. He said it’s intended to protect students and staff from inclement weather.
“It would be a very nice new entrance point to a lot of the buildings on our campus on the west end,” he said.
Steiner estimated construction will take about 10 weeks, and that the university will start work once it receives the necessary building permits from the village. He noted that crews will have to remove one tree, but plan to replant three trees in its place, per village ordinance.
When asked about compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), he said the enclosed walkway will not be accessible for those in wheelchairs because it would be “quite onerous” cost-wise.
“It’s not intended to try to solve that very important issue,” Steiner said. “We do that in other ways at other locations for each structure.”
Steiner noted that both buildings have ADA-accessible entrances at different locations.
Village President Cathy Adduci said construction of non-ADA compliant enclosed walkway almost “defeats the purpose” of the new path since “somebody in a wheelchair probably needs that more than anyone else.”
“If there’s another application that comes our way that wants to create an enclosed structure, it would make sense for us to do it for those with disabilities,” she said. “I’d like for us to consider updating our code.”
Trustee Carmela Corsini called the walkway’s lack of ADA compliance “disappointing” and later voted against the application. She was the only trustee who voted against Concordia’s plans.
“I would’ve hoped that this would have been part of the conversation,” she said.