The West Suburban Special Recreation Association (WSSRA) is in discussions with the Park District of Forest Park about moving its offices from Franklin Park to the future park’s facility at 7400-7412 Harrison St.
In a recent interview, Marianne Birko, WSSRA executive director, said that, while it has no issues with its current office space, the organization wanted to be more centrally located relative to the west suburban communities it serves. At the moment, the discussions are still in the early stages, since the park district still needs to secure the funds to build the facility. If the funding is secured, construction wouldn’t start until next year at the earliest.
WSSRA is a collaboration between west suburban park districts and municipalities that pool resources to organize programs and activities for residents with disabilities. The association currently has 13 partners, including the Park District of Forest Park. Their coverage area goes as far north as Harwood Heights, as far west as Bensenville and as far south as Riverside.
Birko said WSSRA moved offices several times over the years, with stints in Oak Park and Elmwood Park before moving to a Franklin Park School District 84 building at 2915 Maple St.
This spring, the Park District of Forest Park closed on the purchase lots across the street from its tennis courts. At the time, the site housed the former Pines Restaurant, Oak Leaf Lounge and the Forest Park Foreign Car Repair shop.
Jackie Iovinelli, park district executive director, previously told the Review that it doesn’t have enough room in its current facility to expand popular indoor programs such as day camp. The new building would allow the district to do that, as well as to offer new programs. She also indicated at the time that they were in discussions with WSSRA about that organization potentially renting space in the new building.
Birko said that, as a matter of policy, WSSRA doesn’t own any spaces it uses. Instead, it rents them from partner districts and other area government entities. She said that its current landlords have been “wonderful,” but that “the opportunity to move where we’re centrally located has been on our radar for as long as we existed.”
Birko said a more centrally located office will save commuting time for employees traveling to various facilities, and it will save WSSRA money.
She said the discussions are still in the early stages. Iovinelli previously indicated that, while the park district has the funds to demolish the buildings, it still needs to secure the funding to build the facility.
The park district is currently going out to bid for demolition. Iovinelli said the park’s board of commissioners is expected to approve the bid in August, with the goal of completing the demolition this fall.
Birko said she is hopeful that the project will come together.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled [by] this opportunity,” she said. “They’re a great community, and they’re extremely supportive. We think it could be one of the greatest opportunities we had since the start of this organization.”