The Forest Park Park District began renovations on its main administration building at a ground breaking ceremony on Saturday.
According to Park District Executive Director Larry Piekarz, the building will be made handicap accessible, in part by the addition of an elevator. Also, the wall around the building is being replaced, classroom space is being added, and the verandah will be opened up so that residents can look out on the pool.
With the installation of new amenities to make the building handicap accessible, Piekarz said the park will begin renting the facilities for parties and classroom functions. Ideally, the rentals will help generate revenue for the district but the idea is to meet the public’s demand for banquet facilities, Piekarz said.
“We get calls all the time, ‘Do you rent the building,'” Piekarz said.
Party rentals will be available beginning in the fall.
Piekarz said construction would likely be completed by late October.
As the next step in the Park District’s five year plan, which already includes the construction of a skate park and renovations to Building 4 at Sansone Drive and Hannah Avenue, Piekarz said he would like to beautify the west corner of the park and Building 5, which is home to arts and crafts programs.
The ongoing construction is being paid for in part by two bonds, totaling more than $1.9 million, which were sold in late 2006.
Mayor Anthony Calderone said that he would like to see new programs at the Park District. He said he would especially like to see youth programs, because he believes they “show a strong commitment to community.”
Calderone said that changes could well be underfoot at the Park District, as Piekarz has only been the executive director since January.
“Anytime you have a new person at the helm they’ll have a new vision of the way they should run things,” Calderone said.
The Park District recently hired a new superintendent of recreation, Erin Parchert, and is working with neighboring communities on cooperative programming for teens.