River Forest chooses firm to study Civic Center future

The village will pay up to $25,000 to study use for the nonprofit

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By Nona Tepper

 As part of a collaborative effort by River Forest taxing bodies to assess the future of the River Forest Community Center/Civic Center, village trustees chose an architectural firm to study the best use of the Madison Street facility at a meeting on May 13.

Trustees awarded the bid — which is not to exceed $25,000, along with reimbursable expenses -- to Cordogan Clark & Associates, a Chicago-based architectural, planning and engineering firm. At the meeting, Village Administrator Eric Palm said an ad hoc committee — composed of members of the village government, Park District of River Forest, River Forest Township, and River Forest Community Center — reviewed five bids submitted.

"One of reasons we chose Cordogan Clark was they've done previous work on early childhood center components," Palm said, adding that the firm's experience could help River Forest navigate the state's Department of Children and Family Service, which has oversight of the community center's preschool program.

In a memo to trustees, the village also noted Cordogan Clark's experience working with multiple agencies on a single project, previous experience with recreation facilities and focus on data to assess future needs.

"We're excited about moving forward on this for the future of our community and village," Palm said, noting that Cordogan Clark brings "a new set of eyes to River Forest" since it has not done recent work with the village.

The firm will assess the community's current and future needs for the Community Center/Civic Center; potential for redevelopment of the current center, demolition of the existing structure and construction of a new building; and provide renderings of feasible options. Funding for the study will come from the Madison Street tax increment financing (TIF) district, which stretches from Thatcher Road to Lathrop Avenue.   

Palm said Cordogan Clark will talk with community stakeholders about their needs and expectations for the space.

"Stakeholders, as I see it, will be government entitles and private sector partners involved with the community center," Palm said. "So Opportunity Knocks is one that comes to mind, the psych program with the high school walks the line between public and private."

He said he expects organizations to have a "technical dialogue, not necessarily public dialogue" about their needs with the architecture firm. After about four months, Cordogan Clark will have a finished report ready to show the public. The public will then decide whether they want to fund what Palm called a multi-year project that would be in the "millions of dollars."

"Sharing that ultimately with the community. Here's the price tag, here's what you're going to get for that, is this something the community is going to buy into as well?" Palm said.

He said he did not know how River Forest taxing bodies would fund the project. All but Trustee Tom Cargie voted to approve the bid, with Cargie saying it was inappropriate that public dollars will be spent on studying a nonprofit.

"I don't think it's fair to taxpayers when they're bearing all the burden of the cost," Cargie said.  

CONTACT: ntepper@wjinc.com

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