Oak Park takes next step toward police station upgrade

New construction or renovation both come with $40M-plus cost

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By Stacey Sheridan

Staff Reporter

There was wide agreement Tuesday on Oak Park's village board that the current police station, housed in the basement of village hall on Madison Street, is obsolete, overcrowded and, in many ways, an unhealthy work environment. By a 6-1 vote, the board agreed to move from last fall's study of potential space needs for the police department to spending $322,600 to fund architectural proposals for three options to remake the department's space.

  • A full renovation of the current 35,000 square foot facility
  • Renovation and an expansion of the facility
  • A new police station at an undetermined site

The space study undertaken by FGM Architects in 2019 concluded the department would need 78,000 square feet to operate efficiently and to solve current police safety issues.

In its presentation to the village board, FGM representatives estimated that renovating and expanding the current space would cost between $41 and $44 million. Building a new police station off site would cost between $42 and $45 million. That does not include the cost of a suitable piece of land, said Village Manager Cara Pavlicek. 

Land purchase would add to the cost, "unless someone wanted to give us land," said Pavlicek. "Anything's possible."

The village manager could not give an estimate of what the entire project would cost also noting that the village board would need to decide how environmentally sustainable it would expect the police station to be.

"Right now, the only thing the board has committed to is the $322,600 and they've already spent $53,000 to get the space needs assessment," Pavlicek said. "We're really early in this journey and I think it's impossible for me to say, 'Here's an approximate project cost,' because I don't know what they board will do."

Pavlicek said the village's finance department would strategize to find the best fiscal approach to fund the project. "We know we cannot do this and create a tax burden," she said. "We will work to give the board options to meet what their goals are in a fiscally responsible manner."

Police Chief LaDon Reynolds, and multiple of his predecessors, have argued that the current facility has been outdated for decades. Located in the basement of village hall at Madison Street and Lombard Avenue, the police station has hardly changed since its 1975 construction as part of a statement-making village hall complex.

"Policing is a lot different than it was 40 years ago when the structure downstairs was built," Reynolds said. "As far as moving the police department forward into the 21st century, I think it's imperative that we plan for the future," said Reynolds in his presentation to the board. "FGM identified some very serious life safety issues downstairs in the basement." 

Back in November, Louise Kowalczyk of FGM Architects dubbed the police station an "unhealthy environment." FGM presented four possible options regarding the police station: leave it as is, renovate the station, build a completely new facility or renovate and add onto the current station. The firm recommended that the village build a new facility or renovate and add onto the old one.

At the Feb. 18 meeting, Trustee Deno Andrews readily gave his support for the agreement with FGM, saying, "I look forward to their expertise to help us decide what is in the best interest of the village in a new, modernized or fixed up police facility."

Citing the current station's health and safety issues, Trustee Jim Taglia gave his support as well. "It's a serious situation," he said. "I'm ready to move forward."

Trustee Susan Buchanan called the current state of the police station "appalling in terms of health and safety of the workers and the dignity of detainees."

Outside of her work as a village trustee, Dr. Buchanan is associate director of the Occupational and Environmental Medicine Residency Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Trustee Dan Moroney also gave his support but told Reynolds to employ fiscal restraint when possible.

Arti Walker-Peddakotla was the sole board member not in favor of improving police facilities. "I can't in good conscience vote affirmatively on this item," she said.

Walker-Peddakotla believes the funding going toward the police station should go toward something that would benefit the youth of Oak Park.

"I don't think one negates the other," said Trustee Simone Boutet. "I think we need to do both."

Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb said the health issues within the station "required the village to move with a sense of urgency."

In a 6-1 vote, the board approved entering the design agreement but made no decisions regarding which route to take in upgrading police facilities, nor have any renderings been created.

Pavlicek said the board will not make any major decisions quickly. "They're not going to in one day say, 'Go build this,'" Pavlicek said.

The board will have public discussions with the architect firm and the police department to identify the biggest areas of concern and receive more pinpointed cost estimates.

"The village board is going to schedule a public meeting in the next 45 days and at that meeting, they will have a conversation with the architect about options to address, space needs in the police facility and review in detail the space needs assessment," said  Pavlicek. "I would hope after that public meeting, the board would provide staff some consensus of what they want further information on," Pavlicek said.

Antiquated and cramped, the station poses risks to health and safety for both officers and detainees. While the detainment cells contain some anti-ligature features, there are still elements that hinder suicide prevention.

The windowless station also has inadequate space to transfer detainees and its sally port doubles as storage. The entry to the booking room has stairs, a tripping hazard. The booking room itself is narrow and cramped, making it difficult for officers to safely restrain detainees.

The current station has insubstantial room to hold evidence. The police lockers cannot store all the equipment officers are required to have. The station also has major accessibility problems. The building has poor airflow with inefficient heating and cooling.

Pavlicek expects the village will have planning information in the next six months, but a big part of the discussion with the architect will be spent talking about financial capacity.

Those interested can view the results of the space needs assessment on the village website. The communications staff plans to post a video for public to see what the station looks like. In-person tours of the police station are also available.

What's most important, Pavlicek said, is the board is making progress in addressing the police station's condition.

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Reader Comments

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Kevin Brubaker  

Posted: February 28th, 2020 8:33 AM

When an architect comments that the building is overpriced, it's time to worry! Arlington Heights just completed a new 70,000 sf police station for $28 million or $400/sf. St. Charles built a 56,000 sf one for $24.6 million or $439/sf. Hard to see why one here would cost $577/sf.

Christine Vernon  

Posted: February 26th, 2020 11:30 PM

Last sentence to my comment below.. This second library was demolished in 2001. "Oak Park voters approved the Library Referendum for spending $30 million to build a new main library building...The proposed new, three-story main library building would more than double the size of the previous building and offer the flexibility to meet future information needs. Nagle Hartray Danker Kagan McKay Architect Planners of Chicago were named architects for the project. And that is the main library which stands in place to the west of Scoville Park today.

Christine Vernon  

Posted: February 26th, 2020 11:24 PM

Clarification/correction -O.P. projects by Harry Weese. An Oak Park urban planner I know & respect called me. He worked for Harry Weese at one time which I hadn't known. He gave me some history & I found articles, too, re three projects: Village Hall; Francisco Terrace across from the OPRFHS stadium on the former Bishop Quarter property; and the old Oak Park Public Library. 1) An article in the WJ, 2014, when the Village Hall, built in 1975, was named to the National Register of Historic Places. The article says that "Village Hall was constructed in 1975 from a design by the Chicago architecture firm of Harry Weese & Associates. The building reflects Weese's modern design influence, with its open plan representing open government." I am not sure what this means about the actual role of Harry Weese, but it was built by his firm. www.oak-park.us/news/village-hall-named-national-register-historic-places 2) The O.P. Francisco Terrace project at 645 Lake Street was named after an affordable housing project Frank Lloyd Wright did in 1895 at 253 Francisco Terrace, Chicago. Francisco Terrace in Oak Park incorporated a terra cotta arch salvaged from FLW's original project into the design. "Curbed" described this architecture across from the OPRFHS Stadium this way, "Built in Oak Park by Benjamin and Harry Weese in 1975 in the loose mold of Frank Lloyd Wright's Francisco Terrace in Garfield Park, the 17-townhome compound held onto the decorative terra cotta archway salvaged from the original prior to its 1974 demolition. 3) In the case of the former Library (not the original Scoville Library), I always thought it was a Harry Weese project. It's not. From the page of the History of the Main Library. on their website - "the architectural firm of Holabird and Root was hired to design the new main library building" construction began in 1963; opened in 1964; remodeled adding 8,000sq ft on the 2nd flr by Hammond & Beeby..who later did the Harold Washington Library.

Tommy McCoy  

Posted: February 24th, 2020 6:55 PM

"Pavlicek expects the village will have planning information in the next six months, but a big part of the discussion with the architect will be spent talking about financial capacity." I suppose if it was back in the 1960's the language would have been, " We will be rapping for a while about the lettuce, the cabbage roll. According to the Publisher, "And now we have fresh reporting that Oak Park's village board seems ready to move ahead on the long-discussed plan to build a new police station on the "grassy knoll" on the south end of the village hall campus at Lombard and Madison." I thought I read some where that was going to stay a Park for the area. Well you need some place and things do need to change

Kitty Conklin from Oak Park  

Posted: February 24th, 2020 6:56 AM

" Trustee Dan Moroney also gave his support but told Reynolds to employ fiscal restraint when possible." When possible??? Use fiscal restraint all the time.

Christine Vernon  

Posted: February 24th, 2020 12:00 AM

How times change..our quirky designed Village Hall was designed by famed architect Harry Weese, who also designed the former "New" former Oak Park Public Library which was such a hit and sadly demolished for the more soulless library we have now. It was built with the ability to add more floors for it if needed. I had a guest from Europe who was looking forward to seeing it. She was sad when I told her the Weese -designed library had been demolished. . He was the Chicago architect du jour at the time it was built https://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/4-5-2011/Famous-architect-Harry-Weese-is-considered-a-genius-by-one-Oak-Parker/. Every one seemed to think well of him...but back to the Village Hall - the building, in a Wright-like kind of a way - leaked from the roof, maybe when the gutters overflowed in the atrium part of the building? It was a problem. Village Hall was put on the National Register! It attracted a lot of attention in its hey dey...the 1960s and 70s. Anyone, whether that was done by Weese or put in later, that thinks police headquarters should be in a basement, isn't thinking right, How did that ever happen? I hate to see all that money spent for new quarters, too, but policepeople certainly deserve better than the basement. We give our Firemen better accommodations than that.In addition to Village Hall, and the old Library with the sculpture by Geraldine McCullough in front of it, and the townhouses across from the OPRFHS Stadium on the site of the Old Bishop Quarter School were all built by architect Harry Weese.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: February 23rd, 2020 5:23 PM

Thank you Brian.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: February 23rd, 2020 10:23 AM

@ Bruce "Burger King" Kline: I have been out of touch and possibly out of my mind with police work for a long time. Therefore what my beloved boys and girls blue need presently is nothing I am able to opine on. The best practice would be a tour of all new stations to determine what works and what doesn't for two distinct groups of officers, line officers and staff officers. I would assume a second electrical grid taking all computers off the public electric grid to stop any hacking. After that larger parking spaces for those ever growing SUV squad cars. Most of the training was done during the first six weeks of the year in a full week of inservice training in the conference room at VH. One time a satellite station was used for an outside roll call that I attended. I know we trained at the gym at OP Hospital, and The Community Recreational sites sit empty most of the week begging for use. I thought the PD was traveling out to Triton College to use their firing range. There certainly must be an extra meeting room at Triton to hold a half day of training. Nothing says you cant ask for the Columbus Park Hall for training during the winter.Before any money is further spent, look at what facilities can be had in the neighborhood. After that BK I am wonderfully lost.And I will not work without a consultancy fee. In regards o Community Policing, no RBO win without the unheralded work of the uniform officers who work the beat. There are six uniform officers and only one RBO. I as an RBO worked an entire midnight shift so another permanent midnight officer could attend his daughters wedding.The permanent midnight commander was so impressed he authorized any officer working north of Madison at any time to swing thru NW Oak Park. I also made contact w/ North Ave business owners to obtain a key to the common areas where a beat officer could safely take off the gun belt and use the toilet in complete safety while being disarmed. Community Policing shows a lack of communication

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: February 22nd, 2020 8:48 PM

Anyone wanting to know what is required in a modern police facility can google "CALEA" the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies and read all about it, without the silly aphorisms.

Jim Major from Oak Park   

Posted: February 22nd, 2020 8:03 PM

I believe that The Oak Police Department should have a new stand alone Public safety and training facility . I've been advocating strongly for over ten years to help get this going . I believe we need to invest in our police department. This includes more police and most certainly not less. The OPPD is a large part of our community. I believe that citizens and police working together is the most positive and productive way to go . Our police department has regular meetings for the public to learn about what is happening in their neighborhood ,ask questions and share concerns . The RBO community policing model is excellent and we are all very fortunate to have such outstanding officers who serve as a direct line between citizens and the Chief. They also encourage citizens with complaints or feel their interaction with an officer was negative or positive to let them know . I have faith in our police department and do not believe they represent anything but well led ,highly trained professionals who want to help the citizens of Oak Park in a variety of ways . When we need the police we want the police right away . We have this fantastic police department doing an amazing job out of a rotting basement. To Chief Reynolds and the entire Oak Park Police Department. I greatly appreciate you all for putting your lives on the line for citizens of our fine community . To the Board of Trustees ,Mayor ,Village Manager and others I hope that you keep your foot on the gas so we get somewhere fast. Top notch,state of the art Public Safety and training facilities take awhile to build . We are already many years behind .

Bruce Kline  

Posted: February 22nd, 2020 6:45 PM

IMO police should be out in the community ... on the streets, not holed up in a building. Clearly a building is necessary but what should of necessity be contained within, and how big it should be is a matter of debate. So Brian tell us - since you have the experience most of us don't - what is absolutely neccesary (?best practice) in this day and age, and what is not.

Jim Bowman  

Posted: February 22nd, 2020 4:39 PM

Bill Dwyer, I think Bryan S. said a lot more than that, in detail. Quite an interesting comment, I'd say.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: February 22nd, 2020 1:28 PM

Yes, William, they may indeed be dead. However, their thought process lives on, either correct or incorrect,n in the paperwork they left behind, and that thought process needs to examined to determine what exactly went correct or incorrect. The thought process that you affirm which was "the new VH wasn't particularly well thought out" has to identified so the mistakes wont occur again That's the point. Ferdinand Delussups dug the Suez Canal without locks, a sea level canal. He then attempted a sea level canal, lockless in Panama and failed. Teddy Roosevelt called a "reset" and his crew of builders .damned the Chargas River , built locks and the job was completed and still stands today. That's the point, learn from mistakes, build from what went completely wrong. There are no do overs in cement..

Ryan McCarthy  

Posted: February 22nd, 2020 12:36 PM

A lot of space along Madison St. Build it there, or is that where the village is planning to build more high rises?

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: February 22nd, 2020 9:44 AM

Really, Brian? The people who "signed off on this design are dead. I was there working to move things from the old scattered village complex to the present site back in '75. And even then there was a general understanding that the new VH wasn't particularly well thought out. Do a little research, and you'll find that the planning dates back to the late 60s. So, what's your point? That people in charge more than half a century ago made flawed decisions? Congratulations. You're right.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: February 21st, 2020 11:29 PM

Exactly, since the PD was stationed in that location, how many officer have called in sick and how many sick days have been used by officers because of the unhealthy conditions of the Police Department

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: February 21st, 2020 11:20 PM

I have posted most of this before. Before anything is done pull the original plans and find out who signed off on the bad design and why. Those failures lead the discussion. You want to build a locker room so 6 uniform shits can change clothes twice a day, ten minutes before and ten minutes after shift, totaling 2 hours use per day. Plain clothes officers come to work in plain clothes, no need to change. Uniform officers should be in the field, not in the station house. Coat racks will work to hang winter coats. How is the obsolete range and old communications center being utilized? How are the satellite sub stations being utilized, if they still exist. Conference rooms perhaps. The West Wall of the station is dedicated to upper management offices. There are empty offices on the ground floor of the Village Hall. Punch a hole thru the floor/ceiling and move all upper management up stairs, closer to their bosses. Glass wall in for security. Reuse empty basement office space as needed. The PD is about 1/2 half the basement foot print. Can we use any of that space for the PD? At one time, a free standing police building was mandatory to have an Accredited Police Department. An Accredited PD means other people determine the guidelines for running the PD. Issues like the calorie intake for prisoners is mandated by someone outside in order to keep accreditation. If you build a free standing building make sure in no uncertain terms that the present police administration makes no effort to purchase outsiders input to the operation of the PD. That is the job of the present in house administrative staff. Determine how many times a week the cleaning staff clean the village hall. Triple that for the PD which is used 24 hours a day.This entire issue is about the failure of past administrations to get the job done correctly the first time. There are no do overs in cement.

Jim Kelly  

Posted: February 21st, 2020 7:08 PM

Tom, ask for a tour of the current police station. You might change your mind!

Kim Decker from Oak Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2020 4:54 PM

Why not use one of the myriad of now empty business spaces to build a new police station? Why you can even use the old Marshall Fields spot that has been empty for a gazillion years. Or how about Winberies, Fair Share, Geppetto's, soon to be closed Pier One, etc. Why go through the expense of building something new when you have soooooooo many places that could use the occupancy.

Tom MacMillan from OAK PARK  

Posted: February 21st, 2020 12:11 PM

The population is the same as it was when the last one was built. Throw some new paint on the walls and lets get on with life, as if we did not have $50 million to spend on this, because we don't.

Christopher Goode  

Posted: February 21st, 2020 9:24 AM

Wow!!! A new building at 78,000 sf costing $45 million means that the cost per square foot is $577.00. And the renovation/expansion of existing is about the same overall total cost, but not knowing the total space means I can't calculate a true square foot cost. That sounds like an awful lot to me, and I am an architect. I know there is some specialized stuff in a police station, but really, $600 per square foot by the time all is said and done what with inevitable cost overruns sure sounds excessive for what is largely office space! Are they throwing all of the existing furniture, computers, etc. away when they move? Wow!!!

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