Stevenson, Carroll Park projects on tap this summer

Large grants will help fund major upgrades, improve sustainability

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By Igor Studenkov

Contributing Reporter

The Park District of Oak Park is expected to start construction on two major renovation and expansion projects at Stevenson Park and Carroll Park early this summer.

The park district last week sought bids for the work and the board of commissioners is expected to approve contracts at its June 6 meeting. Both projects received grants that allowed the board to increase their scope and add environmentally sustainable features. 

The Stevenson Park renovation received a $400,000 Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) state grant earlier this year, and Carroll Center expansion will benefit from a $577,800 Illinois Clean Energy Community Facilities grant from the nonprofit Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation.

Thanks to the OLSAD grant, Stevenson Park's west entrance will be made handicapped-accessible, and plans call for a full walking loop, installing a bioswale on the Lake Street side of the park in order to reduce flooding, installing picnic and chess tables, and erecting a practice wall for soccer and lacrosse. 

The park district has already budgeted $400,000 in matching funds to cover its share of the costs. Park district Executive Director Jan Arnold said the renovations are scheduled to begin in July and wrap up by the end of November. 

With Carroll Center, 1125 S. Kenilworth Ave., the park district plans to build a two-classroom addition directly south of the current building and build a new playground on the green space to the east. 

The contract for the playground project has already been approved, with the winning bidder coming in at $103,000, which was $97,000 below the park district's estimate. 

But the center expansion portion proved to be more complicated. The board was originally supposed to approve the contract in March, only to find that the lowest bid came in at $200,000 over budget. 

Since then, the park district has sought individual bids for 10 trades. So far, it has received bids for five of them. 

The park district has budgeted $1.1 million for the expansion portion of the project. With the ICECF grant, Arnold explained that they will get a portion of it later this month and will be reimbursed for the rest after the project is completed. 

"[The grant] will give district the needed funds that are necessary to apply sustainable features that we strive for," she told the board.


Dole Library renovations coming

As the Park District of Oak Park officially takes over Dole Center, 255 Augusta St., at the start of June, it will begin making what the staff describes as much-needed repairs.

In her report to the board of commissioners on May 16, park district Executive Director Jan Arnold said repairs will start out relatively small and mostly be done during off-hours. 

But from June 22 to July 7, Dole Center, including the library portion, will close to allow contractors to redo the flooring, install two handicapped-accessible doors on the west side of the building and replace deteriorated stair treads. The board is expected to approve the flooring contract during its June 6 meeting. 

Also on May 16, the board approved the new 50-year lease for the library. Rent ($1,370 per month) and other terms are essentially the same as it was when the village of Oak Park owned the building, but the lease had to be rewritten to account for the change in ownership. 

One thing that may be affected is Oak Park Society of Model Engineers, which leases a space in Dole Center basement. While Arnold said that the park district doesn't want to force the group out of the building, it wants the society to recruit more members from Oak Park. The park district will negotiate a new lease with the group, according to Arnold.

"Right now, they have 27 members [and] nine of them are Oak Park residents," Arnold said. In order to best use that space for the Oak Park community, Arnold said, "We will recommend that they need to increase the number of resident members over the next [several] months."

Arnold told the board that the first round of repairs, which will start on June 3, will involve "painting of the common areas, resurfacing the dance floor on the second floor, removing old logos," painting the basement floor and other minor repairs. 

Once the building reopens on July 8, the park district will work to prepare for the Senior Citizens' Center of Oak Park-River Forest to move into the basement in October. 

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