Park district plans unfold for Roos parcel

'First pass' footprint to be submitted to granting agencies

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By Jean Lotus


Forest Parkers braved the rain and wind Thursday evening to give their input into planning the future of the Park District of Forest Park. About 50 citizens filled the second-floor meeting room to look at blown-up photo representations of possible uses of space: a gymnasium, party rooms, fitness equipment, classrooms along with landscaping, a pavilion and walking trails. Residents filled out cards listing the activities they wanted the new space to provide and placed colored dots on photos they liked.  

But it turns out architects already had an initial plan drawn up which they presented to the board during its regular meeting but after most audience members had left.

It was a matter of being eligible for grant money from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and two grant deadlines March 10 and March 20 that could result in funds for up to 75 percent of the construction costs.

"We still want public input," said Park Director Larry Piekarz. The board will release an internet survey asking what residents wanted to do with the 2.5 acre "Roos parcel" in the next couple of months, he said.

Frank Parisi and Tom Poulos of Williams Architects in Itasca and Landscape Designer Bill Inman of Hitchcock Design Group in Chicago said they wanted to give Forest Park the best shot at nabbing funds from the two grants. They told the board they created plans the granting agencies would find the most appealing.

"This may not be the final design, but we want to submit a plan that has elements favorable to attain the PARC grants," Parisi told the board.

The Illinois DNR offers the Parks and Recreation Facility Construction (PARC) grant. Up to 75 percent of a new facility project's costs can be covered by the state. Up to $200,000 is available through the Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) program. The park district would use those funds, if received, for landscape and outdoor features around the recreation facility.

What were the features that made a PARC grant likely?

"Active recreation is what they're looking for," said Parisi. "The DNR is looking for a menu of options that affect as many types of visitor as possible."

The basic plans submitted to the board showed just the footprints of a building and grounds, without any architectural finishes. The plans included an 8,000 sq. foot gymnasium – large enough for a college-regulation sized basketball court, and sub-dividable into smaller courts by a curtain. A running/walking track circled the courts.

Attached to the building with a separate entrance was a 3,000 sq. foot fitness center. The plan also showed two multipurpose rooms totaling 1,460 sq. ft. One was earmarked for activities for the West Suburban Special Recreation Association (WSSRA) with whom the park district has a long-standing relationship. The building could be expanded in the future with a second floor on the fitness center and an expansion of the gym to the north, architects said.

The landscape elements of the plan included walking trails, a pavilion and bicycle parking for the CTA stop.

The landscape also included a depressed area for floodwater retention, mandated by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. This was designed to cover half an acre with a two- foot incline for "100 year storms," architects said. "It drains down in 24 hours," they said. When there was no storm, the grass-covered area would be used as part of the open space, they said. The plan also permitted access to the village's pump-house at the far north-east end of the site.

Plan elements were first suggested by community input the park district received in 2010 when the ideas were proposed to purchase the Roos building and pass a referendum to pay for it, architects said.

Commissioner Cathleen McDermott specifically asked about areas for teen activities and a space that was dedicated to young people. Parisi said the lengthy lobby area could be decorated as a teen space, "With lots of wifi, because they love their phones."

Piekarz also pointed out the historic Park District Administrative building, built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in the 1930s would be freed up for activities and classrooms when the new structure was erected. Some ideas for new uses for that space included an art gallery and display space for the Historical Society of Forest Park.

What wasn't included was an indoor pool, which more than one participant said was on their wish list.

There is competition for the PARC grant. The Park District of Oak Park also had a public hearing this week in preparation for a PARC grant proposal. But Piekarz said the park district had been lobbying hard to get local politicians and the state park district association on board to champion Forest Park.

Piekarz was quick to insist nothing was written in stone, and architects referred to the plan as a "first pass" and a "first broad stroke," saying details could be added later.

"This is a footprint that addresses the needs we've heard," architects said.

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Reader Comments

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FoPa Watcher  

Posted: February 25th, 2014 10:29 AM

Don't stop there. Brookfield, Oak Park, Hodgkins, Carol Stream, Almost anywhere there is a separate Park District. (and no turf-battles) Multi-use facilities and open space are encouraged over single-use designs. A gym building can adapt to many activities. I agree with Gina re: community garden space and would like to see the Roos tied into the future Ike/Blue Line planning to help address the Circle commuter issues for pedestrians and bicycles. The "footprint" should be tweaked to include the wasted space beneath the bridge. It could be used for Park space. It's better that the PD has submitted grant proposals than not. Community input was not limited to the meeting, staff and the board have been getting input/feedback continually since acquiring the property. The outline is evolving. Better communication would be great, but given our winter; understandable. This is an exciting, historic, long-term investment for the whole community that is moving forward. That alone is terrific news.


Posted: February 24th, 2014 6:52 PM

Look no further... the perfect model is nearby: Park District of LaGrange: It also houses the Bulls & White Sox Academy,. Its a first rate facility that appeals to all who enter.

Bill D  

Posted: February 24th, 2014 11:08 AM

Around here? Not really, though RF has its community center, which has basketball. The RF park district contracts with schools and local universities for some of its athletic facilities. And OPRF high school gyms can be rented out for a reasonable fee. The Park District of Oak Park opened a new state of the art gymnastic center last fall, but they had a strong user base (700-plus people) and an all-but guaranteed long-term market. You see more comprehensive facilities up north and further west.


Posted: February 24th, 2014 8:51 AM

Field House,Basketball courts ,fitness center,etc.

Bill D  

Posted: February 24th, 2014 8:37 AM

Not sure I understand your question, shoes.

shoes from forest park  

Posted: February 24th, 2014 7:00 AM

Does anyone know of other park districts around that have what the park wants to build ??


Posted: February 23rd, 2014 7:44 PM

Hard to get too,good of people on the voluntary Park Board posts. No pay, what's their incentive? As far as picking best candidates, perhaps we should use the style used by our village council and pick the mayor's best friend for a job that should have required skills. Picking the best for a job is not Forest Park's strong suit. Look at Mannix and Hosty.


Posted: February 23rd, 2014 1:17 PM

Some of you are starting to realize that when elections roll around you should probably take a close look at who you are voting for, what are the attributes, credentials, and professional background etc.They have a great opportunity here, I hope they don't fumble it away..doesn't look good right for courts, great just be sure to have leagues for all ages & keep the open gym time restricted to a minimum & primarily for residents. Just like the pool, you pay more if you don't reside in FP.


Posted: February 23rd, 2014 1:06 PM

On a side note , the community center is getting on in years so maybe we need to realistically look at the best options for it.Why do I some times feel when we are asked our opinions as if PLANS ARE already being or have been finalized?

shoes from forest park  

Posted: February 23rd, 2014 12:20 PM

I backed the park and voted for the purchasebut not for basket ball courts !!! I think there are better ideas out there from the citizens. Did they use Dist.91 plan on how to get citizen input The Park Board does not look good in what they did.

wifi not?  

Posted: February 22nd, 2014 8:09 PM

fyi, Teens get free wifi at the library, along with their own teen room. PD should post the plans submitted by the architects on their website so those of us who missed them at the meeting can see them. Finally regarding green friendlytreatment of parkinglot rain runoff check out the main parking lot at the Morton Arboretum.

jerry from forest park  

Posted: February 22nd, 2014 1:33 PM

Larry/Jean, so what you are saying is give Park Dist. land to the village to move the Mohr center there, right smooth move.Do we really need more daycare? We do not have enough park space in town. Onlooker, have you checked the CTA parking lots, it's not like they are over flowing. As for Farmer's Markets, Art Fairs and Carnival's they have been tried and failed, you should pay attention to what goes on in town.

Larry/Jean Burdick from Forest Park  

Posted: February 22nd, 2014 10:58 AM

Daycare. Move the Mohr Community Center to Roos. Also a Fitness Center. No more Parks; we have plenty.


Posted: February 22nd, 2014 9:35 AM

First pass? appears someone dropped the ball, looming March deadlines while competing for grant money? They should really focus on practical use like a fitness center, gym (with all-age leagues) and an indoor pool would be a nice addition. The teen gathering spot?, I highly doubt they would gather there and the classroom stuff is also a waste of time. The Park is notorious for canceling classes & programs due to lack of interest. Why not hometown McAdam for landscaping?

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: February 22nd, 2014 8:44 AM

I've always supported the park district, voted for the referendum to pay for the Roos acquisition. But this smells. In all fairness, if the village council pulled a stunt like this, people would be screaming bloody murder. The park district has handled this poorly at best.

Gina from FP  

Posted: February 22nd, 2014 8:13 AM

Crazy as it may sound I voted for that tax increase based largely on the fact they'd included community garden plots in the drawings and I urged my friends to do the same. I missed the part of the meeting where they presented the nearly finished plans but I'm disappointed they seem to have excluded garden plots when all said and done. If that happens, I'll feel bamboozled.


Posted: February 22nd, 2014 7:27 AM

I have thoughts similar to Patrick's. You wait so long then have a meeting and after the residents have left, present plans already drawn up. Wow! Was this a village council meeting? Run the same way it seems.

Typical! from Forest Park  

Posted: February 22nd, 2014 7:18 AM

The architect Parisi says they are planning "active recreation" yet for teens they are going to dedicate a portion of the lobby with wifi because teens "love their phones." Another great example of poor planning and programming in Forest Park!

Patrick from Forest Park  

Posted: February 22nd, 2014 7:04 AM

Why did you wait so long to have a public meeting?? Since you already have architect plans, it appears you have been working on this for some time. Why wait until a couple weeks before the grant deadlines to have a public meeting when none of our input really means anything as you already have plans to submit? And then show the plans after most people left? Thanks for allowing the citizens a chance to be heard and really considering their input! But hey, you had a meeting so you're covered!

more asphalt? nein danke  

Posted: February 21st, 2014 9:48 PM

@Onlooker: Until there is some meaningful action on the flooding issue, there should be a moratorium on the village laying down any more asphalt. I say the more green space the better.

Erik Treese from Forest Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 21st, 2014 6:30 PM

Excited to hear about all the great options!

Onlooker from Forest Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2014 6:06 PM

Why not build a money maker? A flat surfaced parking lot will bring in fees for CTA parking and usable for weekend activities...carnival, farmers' market, music, art fair, flea market, etc

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