Park District, District 97 boards discuss options for sharing buildings in Oak Park

Park board sees pros and cons for four options put together by a D97 committee last month


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By Devin Rose

Staff Reporter

The Park District of Oak Park (PDOP) and School District 97 could share administrative space in either one of their current Madison Street headquarters, the vacant Volvo building on the same street or the current parking lot at village hall, board members from both entities said at a meeting Thursday.

Those options were detailed in a presentation by D97's Facilities Advisory Committee at a meeting last month, but most PDOP board members hadn't seen them yet. Board members from both entities have said sharing facilities would save money and reduce the footprint of the two entities.

D97 board President Peter Barber said the school district has been delaying maintenance on its building at 970 Madison St. for 8-10 years in an effort to save money, but something needs to be done. Supt. Al Roberts added that when D97 moved into the building almost 40 years ago, it likely wasn't seen as a permanent solution.

A renovation of the current D97 building would free up the park district building at 218 Madison St. which could then potentially go back on the tax rolls, said D97 board member Denise Sacks. There would also be a possibility for expansion space there, and construction of underground parking would limit parking impact on the adjacent residential neighborhood.

Renovation would cost $3.2 million, while construction of a new two-story building would cost $6.2 million. New construction costs could include either $1.3 million for an underground parking lot or $100,000 for off-street parking.

A renovation of the current park district building would cost $2.8 million and off-street parking would be $150,000, according to the presentation. If that building is chosen, the D97 building would be sold and returned to the tax rolls.

But 218 Madison would not provide expansion space and current space there is already minimal.

Since square footage is inadequate at the vacant former Volvo dealership at 260 Madison St., a new building would have to be constructed to fit D97 and off-street parking would cost another $200,000. This option would free up the district's current building for new revenue production.

Choosing the option of building on the current village hall parking lot would free up two non-taxed properties and the footprint of the new building, expected to cost $6.2-$6.8 million, could be smaller because of shared services with the village. Existing green space could be increased because such a project would include underground parking, which would cost $3.5 million. Facilities would be more centralized with this option, Sacks said.

After a presentation of options, the boards went into executive session to discuss potential leasing and purchase of property. Park district interim Executive Director Matt Ellmann said no action was taken on the matter and there will likely be more discussions between the two boards. He said incoming Executive Director Jan Arnold may determine when it will appear on a future agenda.

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Oak Park Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: May 29th, 2012 1:29 PM

Unless park district meeting minutes from Jan. 2007 and previous are incorrect, there has been investment put into renovation of administrative offices. I would be interested in the honest report of total dollars put into the administrative building since the passing of the referendum. I have never heard a figure for $120 million for an indoor pool anywhere. If that is the figure that is being given, we must be including a lot more than construction of an indoor pool.


Posted: May 22nd, 2012 1:22 PM

@OP Res #545. Do you think the residents surrounding the VOP site will be thrilled with the "visionary" large and new bldg going up in their RESIDENTIAL neighborhood? They may already be NEAR Village Hall, but it's pretty slow and tranquil by that site. Spend a little money and rehab the existing bldgs on Madison. And, sorry, forego the utopian parking plan, too! Besides, a potential developer has tons of options on Madison already.


Posted: May 22nd, 2012 12:57 PM

wouldn't it be more "visionary" to have included the need for new park district offices in one of the new projects like the gymnastics enter or a new ridgeland commons? Or are we only calling for spending more money as visionary?

OP Resident # 545 from Oak Park  

Posted: May 22nd, 2012 11:46 AM

First, OPRes is not accurate. PD offices were not renovated after the 2005 ref...what they did do was master plan the admin & other facilities. What also came from that process was that big indoor pool/ice civic ctr was over the top too expensive. $ 120 Mill if I recall. Since they are discussing retrofitting a building for use of both, it's prudent to also explore the cost of new, if it's on the VOP site & frees up space for private development. Seems visionary till we see all details.

Oak Park Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: May 22nd, 2012 8:31 AM

I would like to understand for the need for $2.8 million in administrative office renovation when very soon after the park district referendum in 2005, significant amount of dollars was immediately used for Administrative office renovation. We can afford to do major renovations of park district administrative building at least every 6 years but cannot afford a year round pool that was one of the top priorities for our community in the park district's own survey of Oak Park residents?


Posted: May 22nd, 2012 8:17 AM

@OP Res #545. What you wrote makes sense, but I fear the devil is truly in the details. First, how do you even know that D97 and PD NEED a brand new, multi-millions (with underground parking!) facility? I know that they WANT one. Second, is there any one in OP today, other than staff and bd members, that wants to see this done? Third, I believe that "the mkt knows" already that there is minimal demand for commercial space on Madison. See what's going on in Europe today? USA next? Let's wait.

OP Resident # 545 from Oak Park  

Posted: May 21st, 2012 9:56 PM

OK, then let me expand my main point. You have 2 govt entities w/changing space needs; looking big picture, they can partner & maybe rehab one bldg, & return one, maybe two properties back to the tax roles. Like it or not, some admin space is needed, but together likely not as much as separate. The bottom line is they're exploring the possibilities of partnering, and doing it openly. Let's see where it leads. Madison St doesn't improve until the mkt knows where the commercial space will be.


Posted: May 21st, 2012 2:29 PM

@OP Res #545. Did you read or just skim my posts? Moronically misunderstood? No where did I(or anyone) write that the present admin bldgs were "palaces." I was, though "against" their dreams of NEW "palaces." Or do you honestly believe that "underground parking" for the staff was necessary for the strength and vitality of Oak Park? Yes, you were correct that I'm "against" admin bldgs needing to be better than "C" offices. How does this affect their mission? Help kids or programs?

Dist 97 Referendum  

Posted: May 21st, 2012 1:27 PM

Does that mean they buy it back? For how much?

j.oak park  

Posted: May 21st, 2012 1:19 PM

@dist 97 ref. The building will revert back to the district in Dec 2012. Sorry for the wrong information.

j.oak park  

Posted: May 21st, 2012 1:15 PM

@ Dist 97 Ref. I though that the building was returned to the district last year? I could be wrong. I have been in both buildings, they are not that bad, in my opinion. I know I have worked in worse. I also know that many of the districts building are kinda meh and institutional. But government buildings are not meant to be elaborate or beautiful. People don't move here for for the school district office they move here for the schools.

Dist 97 Referendum  

Posted: May 21st, 2012 12:53 PM

I thought VOP owns the Dist Admin bldg and was leasing back to Dist 97 for $1?

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: May 21st, 2012 12:41 PM

OP Resident - not against everything, just cannot fathom how you "delay" maintenance for eight to ten years. No wonder the building is crap. And will you maintain the new building or let it go to crap so in twenty years the next regime can want a new one again?

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: May 21st, 2012 12:37 PM

"D97 board president Peter Barber said the school district has been delaying maintenance on its building at 970 Madison St. for eight to 10 years in an effort to save money, but something needs to be done." Are you f&$@(&$) kidding me? How the hell does this save any money? Why do something today when you can demand a "state of the art" building later because you haven't maintained it? If I did that, I'd get a notice from the village on all the violations with my property.

OP Resident # 545 from Oak Park  

Posted: May 21st, 2012 12:35 PM

As a D97 parent, taxpayer, & park program user, I can attest to having been in both Admin bldgs many times. Anyone who thinks these are "palaces" has never been there, or is, frankly, a moron. They're "C" offices at best, & need work. What it appears both are doing is trying to reduce govt footprint on Madison (good thing), possibly share services (good thing), & save $$ over time. I thought people want their govt bodies partnering when practical? Or are you posters here just against everything?

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 21st, 2012 12:34 PM

Kyle, In St. Clair Shores, Mich. in the 1980's during tough (real tough) financial times, the neighboring school district closed and sold its administration building to raise money for student programs. Administration employees were dispersed to school buildings throughout the district. A bit drastic but it showed leadership. I am strongly in favor of the D97 - Park & Rec consolidation. It makes good sense.


Posted: May 21st, 2012 12:08 PM

If it makes the school district feel any better, where I'm originally from the school board worked out of offices in a strip mall next to a quick mart and a Dairy Queen for most of my growing up. Until we finally built ONE municipal complex with police/fire/city/schools/parks all in one place. But they asked the taxpayers via a levy, first.


Posted: May 21st, 2012 12:02 PM

@Kyle. Agreed. I'd also like to know why they are considering either $100K or $1.3M for parking? Where are the people parking today? Why should taxpayers pay ANY THING for their parking? All I keep thinking is that this is nothing more than a dream/wish list for them. It has no ed or rec value for residents, but, hey, since they don't have to pay for this - why not!?! Will I next read the usual "scare" nonsense of how our prop values will plummet if this isn't done asap? Does this EVER end?!?


Posted: May 21st, 2012 10:59 AM

@Unfortunately, I'd really love to hear more about the decision-making of not doing maintenance on the D97 building for a decade. The conditions in the buildings, etc.. You make do with what you've got, you know what I mean? Is there mold, do the toilets not flush?


Posted: May 21st, 2012 10:10 AM

@Kyle. Every day the admin people for D97 and PD go to "the office" and, while doing the legit job, some wish that they had a "nicer" place to do it. The supts then tell the bd members - "that something needs to be done!" and since they aren't spending their own money!?! BTW, since we believe that this has nothing to do with "programs or kids" - why? Safety or health risks to staff? Or just desire to work somewhere "pretty?" Dooper - did you really say "net cost almost zero"? $3-$6M? Really?


Posted: May 21st, 2012 9:25 AM

"Programs or kids..." I thought the same thing, Unfortunately. Is this really the time to want an optional building when they should be focusing on the tasks at hand? I will say that this is a great example of the kind of thing, should they pick a plan, that should be on the ballot for voters to decide. If they make their case to the people of Oak Park, fine. I would really need to hear the full details, but at 1st glance this doesn't fly with me.


Posted: May 21st, 2012 9:06 AM

@Dooper 58. Do you believe that the real estate on Madison has much value today? There's a reason why the Comcast bldg was being debated for so long. The same reason for all of the empty storefronts on Madison. True, PD was on Garfield BEFORE they moved to the space in Village Hall. And then they spent a lot of money on their new HQ on Madison. Village Hall has emptied out a bit - save money and move back there. No Taj Mahal for the staff. This has NOTHING to do with programs or kids!

Silly and Silliar  

Posted: May 21st, 2012 8:58 AM

UMM quik question: lots of building for sale on Madison: the two buildings that the two districts wish to vacate are no jems, for all the reasons that they want to abandon them, who is going to buy them? Cadillac dealership and Comcast have been empty for how long? I know, Aldi and Interfaith want to move in. Great low rent apt. and low rent food store, and extention of Madison from the west side of chicago, perfect fit for fancy oak park.

Dumb and dumber  

Posted: May 21st, 2012 8:52 AM

If the park district is already building a new gymnastics center, and really should be building anew ridglenad, but since they are not they should include room in their plan, they should include space for the park district offices. It seems inclusion in one of the park district current building plans should include the park district offices and they can use the sale of the current building (good luck selling it!) to fund expansion of PD offices.

This really has to stop   

Posted: May 21st, 2012 7:53 AM

No, really, really has to stop. no new building, no renovations, keep what you have and feel lucky to both D97 and the Park district. Both are sending money as if there is no end to it. The taxpayers are your funding and I for one say NO MORE! And an underground parking lot? Shouldn't the taxpayers be so lucky...please give me the name of the person who suggested that! I would like to speak with them personally.

Dooper 58 from Oak Park  

Posted: May 20th, 2012 8:54 PM

To Unfortunately...don't forget that each entity would end up selling their existing buildings, making the net cost almost zero. But you are wrong...the PD never had space in Village Hall. The PD HQ was on Garfield adjacent to Conservatory, and they didn't build an "expensive place". They bought an abandoned auto body shop & fixed it up. And Mr French, please...Les Golden had nothing to with this, nor anything else of substance in this town over the past 30 years.

Roger French from Oak Park  

Posted: May 20th, 2012 12:31 PM

easy call. go for the least expensive option, and sell the D97 bldg. no more taxes (thank you Les Golden)


Posted: May 19th, 2012 5:21 PM

Yikes!?! How could a "cost savings" proposal end up costing multi-millions?!? It wasn't that long ago that the PD occupied space at Village Hall. They then just HAD to have their own space and built an expensive place across the street. Of course THAT is no longer big enough and now, combined with D97, they want to build a Taj Mahal with underground parking for the employees. OP prop taxes aren't already too high - this "dream" wants them even higher? "For the children"? Never ends, does it?

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