Oak Park and River Forest High School will pay nearly $6 million to a construction management firm to oversee the Project 2 construction that begins next year. 

The total cost of Project 2 is projected be nearly $102 million. Under a contract approved by the school board on last week, OPRF will:

  • pay a $1.75 million construction management fee to the Gilbane,
  • reimburse Gilbane for $3.89 million for wages and salaries for labor, and
  • pay Gilbane $355,000 for preconstruction services.

“Get it done on time and under budget,” school board president Tom Cofsky told Gilbane Project Executive Jeremy Roling after the vote. Roling will manage Project 2. 

Privately owned Gilbane is one of the largest construction management firms in the country. It is a leader in school construction and has managed many large, complex projects, including the construction of Terminal 5, the international terminal at O’Hare Airport.

Project 2 is a large, ambitious project that will include the demolition and rebuilding of the southeast portion of the high school. The project includes the construction of a 10-lane swimming pool with a 420-seat observation gallery; a three-court, third-floor gym; a weight room; locker rooms; a dance studio; a yoga/self-defense studio; two new P.E. classrooms; an ADA compliant elevator; a green roof; and the installation of infrastructure necessary for solar electricity generation.  

Preliminary work is scheduled to begin in March with the tear-down in June. The project is expected to be completed by August 2026.

The OPRF school board voted 6-0 to approve the contract with Gilbane. Board member Tim Brandhorst abstained. Brandhorst did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

The management fee will be doled out in 32 equal monthly installments of $55,781.25, with the first payment being made in February. Gilbane will provide a fee holiday on change orders until the cumulative total of change orders reaches $4 million. After that, the Gilbane fee on change orders will be 1.75 percent of the cost of the change order. 

The labor costs reimbursement is scheduled to paid out in 32 monthly installments of $121,562.50 with the first payment also scheduled to be paid in February.

OPRF and Gilbane had been negotiating about liquated damages, damages that Gilbane will have to pay if the project is not completed on time. OPRF wanted phased-time deadlines, but agreed to only impose liquidated damages if the project does not meet its final deadline of July 31, 2026.

If subcontractors and Gilbane had been made liable for liquidated damages at multiple points during the project, that could have raised costs because subcontractors likely would submit higher bids to compensate for the greater risk of having to pay liquidated damages.

“What we don’t want to do is be so tight in our requirements that we do not get enough bidders to be competitive and risk going over budget on bid day,” OPRF Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Anthony Arbogast told the school board. “So it’s kind of finding that fine line in the middle of how do we hold everyone accountable but then also making sure that this project is attractive enough to bring in a large number of bidders that we can have a competitive bidding day that goes very well for us.”

Gilbane and OPRF ultimately agreed to a liquidated damages amount of $2,000 a day for any work completed after the date of scheduled completion with a cap equal to half of the construction manager’s lump sum fee amount.

Roling told the Wednesday Journal that he and others at Gilbane are excited to begin work on Project 2.

“We’re the number one K-12 builder in the United States,” Roling said. “Our volume is massive. We do a lot of K through 12 building in Illinois.”

Gilbane has worked on major projects at Stevenson High School, Proviso Berkeley District 89, Fenton High School. Roling said the Gilbane has constructed swimming pools at Libertyville, Highland Park and Deerfield High Schools.

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