by Julia Locanta, Daily Herald correspondent
Published on dailyherald.com on 9/4/19
Elmhurst Park District's vision for the future is beginning to look more concrete.
Its Vision 2020 plan has been shaped into six projects that range from a new adult center to an indoor sports center to a dog park along with expansion of the Wagner Community Center, acquisition of more outdoor space and improved park maintenance.
With the motto "Your Parks, Your Community, Your Vision," the strategic plan was put together using data from resident surveys and aims to address the community's wants and needs, Executive Director James Rogers said.
"It's a notion of a clear vision of the future," Rogers said. "Next year is also Elmhurst Park District's 100-year anniversary, so we're looking at it as the community telling us what they want to see in the next century."
Here's what's on the drawing board ...
The district wants to develop a new facility for education and other programming aimed at adults and seniors.
The park board is in the process of buying an existing recreation center owned by a church at 123 E. St. Charles Road for $5.5 million. Both parties have signed a contract, but closing will take place in early fall.
The 2.92-acre site is ideally sized and situated, division manager of strategy and planning Laura Guttman said. The board is considering remodeling the building for $3.1 million or demolishing it and starting new for $6.6 million.
The space will house activities such as adult dance classes, luncheons and social services.
The conceptual design for the center shows a building with a lobby, an arts and crafts center, a fitness and dance studio, a large multipurpose room and an indoor and outdoor classroom.
Elmhurst does not meet the regional and national standards for parks and open space -- and residents took note of the shortfall in their survey responses.
"The No. 1 comment on how we can do better as a community was, 'Give me a park by my house,'" Commissioner Carolyn Ubriaco said during an Aug. 26 meeting.
Roughly 13% of residents do not have a park within a mile of their home.
The board plans to build more parks in areas lacking outdoor space, many of them toward the middle of the city.
Officials said they'll acquire land gradually and currently are looking to spend about $500,000 annually for land and construction.
Surveys and other input from the community indicated that residents are disappointed with the maintenance of parks and fields. Upkeep of amenities such as athletic fields and play areas received a C+ rating from independent park assessments.
Director of Parks Dan Payne proposed a plan to hire more staff members at the Aug. 26 meeting. The district's maintenance staff includes 15 full-time employees, but Payne suggested adding 17 more under three new divisions. He said creating a programs, operations and projects division will allow for a proactive approach to maintenance.
A new proposed maintenance facility would cost $3.5 million. Seventeen additional staff members would cost $1.8 million more annually.
The new sports center is proposed to be about 160,000 square feet. It will include two full-sized synthetic turf fields, six convertible basketball courts, an indoor walking track, multipurpose rooms, a lobby and food services, locker rooms and possibly physical therapy and esports gaming.
The projected construction will cost about $57 million, and land acquisition is estimated to cost $15 million, making the total estimated cost $72 million. The board does not yet have a site for the proposed facility.
The board hopes to improve its community center after receiving requests from the community for more space and better conditions. Wagner currently offers classes for young children, dance, gymnastics and other activities at 615 N. West St.
Possible plans involve either renovating and expanding the existing center or building a new facility. A new facility would cost $19.5 million, while renovating the existing building would cost $18.1 million.
The new dog park is a bit further along than the other projects. The board acquired land for construction about two years ago at 0S761 Old York Road. Conceptual designs for the park include areas for large and small dogs, a walking path, shaded space and agility equipment. The cost of new dog park is $1.7 million.
Additional funding will be needed for the district to complete all the Vision 2020 projects. The board is exploring grants, partnerships and other revenue sources, including a potential tax increase referendum question. Timelines for the projects vary and are dependent on funding and surveys from registered voters.
The next regular park board meeting will be at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 9, at the administrative office, 375 W. First St.