By Devin Rose
Plans for the future park district gymnastics center at 25 Lake St. moved another step forward, Thursday night, as the Park District of Oak Park board gave the go-ahead to architects to continue design work and also approved a demolition bid for the existing structure.
Representatives from Williams Architects and Altamanu, a landscape architecture and urban design firm, showed the board the latest schematic design for the center that will be built on the site of a former Aldi grocery store.
One possibility being considered is a way to foster a link between the gymnastics center and Stevenson Park, which sits just west across Humphrey Avenue. The designers mentioned a Dutch-inspired concept called a woonerf, which might run east and west along North Boulevard and creates a shared space for cars and pedestrians, said John Mac Manus of Altamanu. The woonerf would give pedestrians the right-of-way and allow for four more parking spots in the lot, bringing the total to 22, Mac Manus said. Though it's not in the budget for the project, which is so far expected to cost about $6.7 million, architects will keep working with the idea.
Outside, the entry to the facility would open onto a plaza with space for sculpture and landscaping and a railing on the edges. Frank Parisi of Williams Architects said architects used a design that would create an identity for the area, and could be tied to Ridgeland Common, also on Lake Street, and the Stevenson Center.
Gymnastics manager Jamie Lapke said she got help from a Georgia-based gymnastics vendor to help plan the space where equipment will go. The program currently has 21 pieces of equipment and will need 18 more, she said.
The second floor will have a spectator area looking down to the first floor and two multi-use rooms that can accommodate programs other than gymnastics, if necessary, Parisi said.
Executive Director Gary Balling said he'd schedule a meeting with village officials in the next week or two to discuss the design and other unresolved matters, like possible outdoor storage space behind the building. Williams will continue to develop the design and hopes to start construction on the facility in September.
After the presentation, the board unanimously voted to approve a $30,850 bid from Albrecht Enterprises of Des Plaines for the current building's demolition.