OP Parks signs on for Cheney Mansion rehab

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By BILL DWYER

It was smiles all around as the Park District of Oak Park and the Infant Welfare Society of Oak Park and River Forest (IWS) signed a formal agreement Thursday night for the renovation of Cheney Mansion as part of the IWS's annual Showcase House fundraiser.

Park Board President David Kindler and IWS President Mary Anderson signed a contract that spells out in detail how the National Landmark building will be renovated next July.

While both sides were enthusiastic from the start about using Cheney for the fundraiser, the past year was spent crossing t's and dotting i's to ensure that key historical aspects of the building will not be altered. The treatment of each room and every feature and fixture in each room is meticulously spelled out in a 16-page contract addendum.

"We appreciate your patience with us," Kindler told Anderson and IWS Special Projects manager Carol Wootton.

"We were working to maintain the historical integrity of Cheney Mansion," explained Gary Balling, executive director of the Park District of Oak Park. Balling noted that rooms such as the Cheney's bathroom had to be handled with extra sensitivity to historical features.

"We won't do a tear out of that area," he said. "It's limited to redecorating. What will be transformed are areas like the kitchen, which will be dramatically updated."

Unlike past years, the American Society of Interior Designers will not be involved in the renovation. That has Anderson and her IWS colleagues busy working to secure the services of contractors, designers and underwriters.

"I believe this is just a win-win," Balling said in introducing the resolution to the park board for a vote.

The IWS will formally take over the building July 12, 2007, and will host a three-week open house starting September 12. The refurbished building will return to park district possession the first week in October.

"I can't wait for opening night," quipped Kindler, smiling happily.

"It's a great way to end our 90th year celebration," said an equally- pleased Anderson. The IWS's celebration year will kick off this September 16 with a gala event downtown at the Mid-America Club.

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