PMSA to downsize parking lot, add playing fields

Phase 1 of D209 Facilities Master Plan is beginning

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By Maria Maxham

The Proviso Math and Science Academy (PMSA) parking lot is getting a hefty makeover this summer, if all goes according to schedule.

In 2018, the Proviso Township High Schools District 209 Board of Education and Superintendent Jesse Rodriguez, along with architects from Perkins + Will, developed a Facilities Master Plan to make improvements at all three D209 schools. Several meetings, attended by over 750 stakeholders, were held between July 2017 and December 2018 to get community feedback on the project.

According to the facilities plan, several problems exist regarding the PMSA parking lot. The first relates to congestion on major roads, First Avenue and Roosevelt Road, surrounding the school during drop-off and pick-up times. The problem is complicated by the absence of a dedicated left turn lane to access PMSA from First Avenue.

Second, a majority of the PMSA site is paved, since the former site was an office building. As a result, there is very little green space and "a distinct lack of outdoor PE/Practice space for the campus." Finally, the parking lot is, in general, "deteriorating and needs substantial repair."

As part of the first phase of the plan, the PMSA lot and accompanying land, where the gym class sometimes plays outdoor sports, will be redone to improve traffic flow and provide more activity space for students through the creation of playing fields on the eastern section of the lot and in the area north of the school itself.

According to Forest Park Public Health and Safety Director Steve Glinke, who oversees zoning for the village, when the school was first established in 2004, it was granted special use as a school and was bound by multiple zoning restrictions, including "a directed prohibition of outdoor physical activities."

Although PMSA twice worked with the village to amend the original agreement to lift the outdoor activity restriction, the space is not ideal for outdoor activity, resulting in the current effort to create usable outside areas for physical education.

Glinke said formal studies of parking demand, site lighting, landscape improvements and on-site traffic circulation will be evaluated by the village, and a public vetting, either through the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) or the Planning Commission or both, will need to take place prior to village council approval of the project. His plan is to get the issue before the ZBA or Planning Commission in March or April, and before the village council in May.

The PMSA work is part of a more comprehensive package of first phase master facilities construction projects across the district, including work at Proviso East and Proviso West.

In an interview last week, outgoing D209 Supt. Jesse Rodriguez said that, as a result of the summer construction, upcoming summer school activities at PMSA will happen at Proviso East and West.

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