The Park District of Forest Park has plans for a 2006 to remember, with renovations planned over the next few months intended to enhance the accessibility and overall usefulness of the district’s headquarters.

Major renovations are planned for the district’s main administrative building at 7501 Harrison St., known as Building #1, as well as Recreation Building #4, located north of the tennis courts at Sansone Drive and Hannah Avenue. The district also plans to construct a skate park, create a distance marked walking circuit through the park using the existing pathways.

Though the improvements scheduled for the administration building will be a four year process, significant changes are planned for the first year. First, the 68-year-old building, constructed in 1938 for an original cost of $125,000 and designed by Forest Park architect Carl J. Kastrup, is due for some basic structural maintenance, according to Park District Executive Director Dave Novak.

The entry gable, located on the south side and center of the building, will have all existing timbers and stucco removed and restored to its original design. Repairs will also be made to the facade on the north side of the building and the staircase tower at the building’s entrance.

The veranda roof on the north and west sides of the building will be restored, and once it has been repaired and re-decked, a 42-inch high safety handrail system will be added to create an observation deck and outdoor meeting area overlooking the aquatic center.

“If grandparents want to come and watch the kids while they take swimming lessons, it’ll be a great place to do that,” said Novak. In year two of the project, a new entryway lobby, elevator tower, handicapped accessible restrooms, offices and board meeting room will be added on the east side of the administration building.

Novak said the additions would increase the accessibility of the facilities to the elderly and disabled, while increasing the district’s ability to provide rental accommodations to the public.

Years three and four will bring further renovations to the administrative building, with the third and fourth floor of the building scheduled for remodeling.

Improvements to the Recreation Building are scheduled to be completed in their entirety in the first year of work.

The building, first constructed in the 1950’s as a “warming house” for an outdoor artificial ice rink, now is home to the park’s before and after school Fun Camp programs as well as its summer day camp. The West Suburban Special Recreation Association also uses the building for its programs.

Scheduled improvements include a new main entrance on the building’s west side, improved heating and air conditioning, new bathrooms designed to meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and new tile floors to replace the carpet that is currently installed.

A new roof and an exterior and interior paint job, as well as new kitchen facilities, are also planned. Work is expected to last from February until the start of the summer camp program, and the before and after school programs will be moved to the main building during construction.

The five year renovation project is budgeted to cost $2,222,350. Of that, $1,185,000 will go toward the renovation of the administration building. The price tag will be divided at $277,000 per year, except for year two, which is budgeted for $1,114,350, though Novak said at a Dec. 1 meeting that $100,000 from the year two budget will likely be moved to year one. The cost will be financed in large part by the $837,250 in bonds currently available to the park district.

The district, according to Novak, has received some criticism since The Review first reported the project’s cost from residents asking why it did not use the money to purchase the Roos building on Harrison Street along with the village as part of the multi-use governmental center proposed by Mayor Anthony Calderone in July.

Novak said the costs of the two projects were incomparable, as the renovations will be paid for over five years, and the Roos building, even if purchased for its appraised value of $1.3 million as a commercial property or $2.3 million as a residential property, would have likely required further renovations for years to come.

“We looked into it, but we just don’t have the funds available without increasing taxes,” he said.

Skate park planned
in response to high demand

Though it is far from the most expensive, perhaps the most noticeable addition to the park’s facilities planned for 2006 will be a new skate park, which Novak said has been in especially high demand from kids and parents alike over the past couple years.

The park will feature grind boxes, quarter pipes, spines, launch boxes, half pipes, rails, jump ramps and banks, among other obstacles. The park board decided to install a modular skate park, where the obstacles can be moved and rearranged, rather than a stationary park.

The equipment chosen for the facility was made by Landscape Structures Skatewave. Landscape Structures also manufactured the playground equipment in the park’s tot lot.

According to Novak, parents have told park officials that in the past, they have had to drive their kids to Berwyn or Chicago for a safe skating environment. Novak said that the district’s insurance company recommended that the skate park be unsupervised to reduce liability, but that signs with safety guidelines will be posted.

He said that there are currently no plans for a cover charge to use the park, but that membership fees might be considered if the park becomes overly crowded with out-of-towners.

Though the skate park is a two year project, Novak said that the district has arranged for the second phase of equipment to be shipped ahead of time, allowing the park to be complete by spring.

To save on assembly costs, park district workers will assemble the skate park on their own in the facility’s garage over the winter. The equipment will then be brought out to the former site of the district’s outdoor basketball courts, which will be resurfaced before the skate park opens.

According to Novak, the equipment for the skate park will cost $71,000, while the resurfacing cost will be under $10,000. The equipment purchase, Novak said, was put out to bid through the United States Community Master Intergovernmental Purchasing Agreement, which handles bidding on certain equipment purchases for numerous park districts nationwide.

To research the skate park, Novak said, park commissioners visited skate parks in Villa Park, West Chicago, and other Chicagoland neighborhoods. One of the pieces of skating equipment they chose is a “park bench,” which Novak said will replicate the real park bench outside the administrative building that skaters currently use for jumps.