The Oak Park and River Forest High School Board of Education is poised to hire Gilbane Inc. to manage the estimated $102 million Project 2 construction project that will tear down and rebuild the school’s southeast corner and include the construction of a new 10-lane swimming pool.  

Construction work on Project 2 is expected to begin next summer.  Gilbane is a large, family and privately owned construction company.  Like OPRF, it has been around for more than a century. 

Gilbane was chosen from a field of five construction management companies that submitted proposals to manage Project 2.  Three firms were interviewed and Gilbane won out.  

“Gilbane checked all the boxes in terms of successful project completion, management on both large scale projects as well as experience with pools being involved with the project and also have a really leading edge focus on diversity and equity in the construction process as well so they really checked all the boxes for our community,” said Tony Arbogast, OPRF’s new assistant superintendent for business services.  “They came highly recommended from other districts.”

The school board is expected to officially approve a contract with Gilbane at its Aug.  24 meeting, but Gilbane has already been working with OPRF’s architects and school staff on the project. 

“They’ve been excellent to work with have really jumped in,” said Alyson Sternquist, the lead architect and project manager for OPRF’s architectural firm, FGM. 

The Providence, Rhode Island-based Gilbane has worked on many projects in the Chicago area, including building major additions to Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire.  

“Gilbane has a very strong record of hitting the project in terms of both time and budget,” Arbogast told the school board at its Aug.  10 meeting.    

School officials know that the pressure is on to get Project 2 done without major problems or cost overruns.  Project 2 was a divisive issue and was the subject of intense arguments for much of the past year before the school board in May unanimously approved going ahead with Project 2 without a referendum.  

“This is a key moment in the history of this school,” Arbogast said. 

School board members Fred Arkin and Graham Brisben emphasized how crucial it is to get Project 2 done right. 

Arkin said that Project 2 is perhaps the largest project ever attempted in Oak Park and River Forest. 

“We had to fight tooth and nail to get this thing approved,” Arkin said. 

Brisben said that Project 2 will be a pivotal moment for OPRF. 

“The mandate is for the project to come in safely, on time and on budget,” Brisben said. 

Arbogast recommended that OPRF enter into what is called a “construction manager at-risk contract” with Gilbane rather than a strict, guaranteed maximum-price contract.  The two types of contracts are similar, but the construction manager at-risk contract provides an agreed-upon cost of the project and a mark-up for construction manager costs and profit.  The construction manager at-risk model gives the construction manager more flexibility than a strict GMP contract, although a guaranteed maximum price is usually part of a construction manager at-risk contract.  OPRF officials consulted with the school’s law firm, Franczek, before determining what type of contract to enter into. 

Arbogast told the school board that it is difficult for schools to enter into a GMP contract. 

“This process is extremely difficult due to our public bidding requirements,” Arbogast wrote in a memo to the school board.  “We lack the ability to negotiate prices in traditional senses of a GMP.   Upon investigation, we would have to set a GMP for each individual bid, and be forced to rebid when they were exceeded.  That is going to make scheduling and sequencing this project almost impossible.  GMP also leaves many ways that a project can still go over the guaranteed price, while requiring a profit-sharing agreement for any money under budget. ”

On Aug.  9, Arbogast elaborated on this issue. 

“This project has too many trades (for a GMP),” Arbogast said.  “If one sub bid comes in over budget that would delay the project.”

Arbogast said that OPRF has negotiated an agreement to prevent Gilbane from setting a low cost estimate for the project and then bumping up the price through change orders. 

“We’ve negotiated with Gilbane a holiday on change orders,” Arbogast said. 

Subcontractor bids that come in at more than 15 percent higher than projected will be required to be rebid. 

If Project 2 is completed late Gilbane will have pay liquated damages to OPRF at the rate of $2,000 a day for every day the project is late. 

Work on Project 2 is expected to take two years. Work is scheduled to begin next summer and OPRF officials anticipate that the work will be completed prior to the start of the 2026-27 school year.  

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