The Park District of Oak Park seeks bids for a project that will not only repair and spruce up the iconic Cheney Mansion’s main entrance, but make it accessible to people with disabilities.

Park district’s Executive Director Jan Arnold said that while the building does have an accessible entrance, there is no way for people with wheelchairs and other mobility aids to get through the main door. 

In order to reduce inconvenience for people renting out the mansion for events, work will start in November 2018 and run through March 2019. The park district’s Board of Commissioners is expected to award a contract for the work at its Aug. 23 meeting.

Cheney Mansion, 220 N. Euclid Ave., was built in 1913 and became the park district property in 1985. It is used for community programs and events, but can also be rented for weddings and other private and corporate events. 

As previously reported by the Journal, the mansion spaces are getting booked more than ever, thanks to a combination of a redesigned, more user-friendly website and positive word-of-mouth.

The issue with the main entrance, Arnold said, is that the bottom of the door is a few inches higher than the porch. That’s not much of an issue for people who can walk, but it becomes a hindrance for people in wheelchairs. As the result, people who use mobility devices had to come in through the side door. 

“It’s important [for the park district] to treat everyone the same,” Arnold said.

The project calls for the porch to be raised to the same height as the door. 

At the same time, the project will address what Arnold described as more than a century’s of accumulated snow and ice damage to the plaza.

“When you walk up the stairs to the front door, there’s decaying and spacing,” Arnold said. 

In her July 13 report to the board of commissioners, Arnold stated that “the wall and pavers have degraded over the years and are in need of replacement.”

The bid notice indicates that the project will include replacing existing pavers, masonry and lighting fixtures, as well as fortifying the structure against “winter conditions.”

The park district’s Capital Improvement Plan has allocated $300,000 in total over 2018 and 2019 for the entry plaza renovation.

Work is expected to be complete by April 2019.

Randolph Tot Lot plan approved

The Park District of Oak Park Board of Commissioners unanimously approved an update for the Randolph Tot Lot Master Plan, clearing the way for improvements to both halves of the park. 

However, park district Executive Director Jan Arnold said that only improvements to the east half of the park — which includes new fitness equipment — has a clear time frame for implementation. 

The improvements are included in the 2019-20 Capital Improvement Plan. The west half updates will be on hold until funds become available. Arnold said that the park district wanted to prioritize the east half because residents strongly supported those improvements, and it would bring the most immediate benefits to the greatest number of people.

The Randolph Tot Lot is located on the south side of Randolph Street, between Grove and Oak Park avenues. An alley divides it into two halves — a kids’ playground on the west side and the more park-like area to the east.

In 2009-10, the park district made several improvements, putting in new playground equipment, adding rubberized playing surfaces and making landscape improvements. But the park district has a policy of revisiting its master plans at least once every 10 years. 

According to information included in the park board’s meeting packet, residents attending a community meeting in April suggested adding outdoor fitness equipment and changing the seating to encourage more social interactions.

The fitness equipment will include a chest/back press, a squat press, a cardio stepper, an elliptical machine and more. The benches around the central circular plaza would be relocated “to increase social activities.”

Arnold said no other park within the district has outdoor fitness equipment, which can be used by people of all ages.

“We think that will allow [residents] of all economic levels to have access to fitness,” she said

The park district budgeted $75,000 for those improvements. The total cost for all improvements is estimated to be $161,234.

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Igor Studenkov

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Growing Community Media newspapers in 2012, then from 2015...

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