By Bob Uphues
Riverside trustees voted on Nov. 16 to embark on a months' long project to review its public facilities and begin planning for the future.
The village board awarded an $80,000 contract to Itasca-based Williams Architects to evaluate eight public buildings and provide recommendations to accommodate future space needs.
The board's action followed a formal request for qualifications which drew 23 responses, said Village Manager Jessica Frances. Staff interviewed representatives from five firms responding to the June RFQ, rating Williams as their top choice.
At the Nov. 16 meeting, Mark Bushhouse, managing principal of Williams Architects, walked trustees through the evaluation and space needs analysis process, one he said will take four to five months for the firm to complete and will include open houses to gain community feedback.
The facilities to be reviewed are the village's offices in the Riverside Township Hall – which could trigger the involvement of Riverside Township, which owns the building – the police department, two fire stations, the old Youth Center, the water tower, public works site and the train station.
In addition to touring the facilities, collecting data and analyzing how the facilities conform to modern standards, Williams Architects will try to determine needs over the next two decades and provide options, complete with site and building concepts, recommendations for construction phasing and budgeting.
Riverside officials over the years have informally talked about the future of some public facilities, particularly the Youth Center, which has been converted into a combination storage/fire department training facility. But those discussions have never resulted in any plan.
"A better way to do this would be a comprehensive analysis of all of our facilities in the village to take a look at what we currently have, what do we need and what do we expect our needs to be in the next 10 to 20 years," said Village President Ben Sells. "This will be the focus in many ways for 2018."
When the space needs analysis is complete, said Bushhouse, the architectural firm will deliver up to 20 notebooks containing information regarding everything from existing conditions to future facilities recommendations.
Regarding the village's offices in the township hall, Trustee Scott Lumsden suggested that the township board might also want to assess its needs for that building in the future. Bushhouse said the present analysis would focus only on the portion of the building used by the village, but that a more comprehensive look at the building might be useful.
"Certainly, if they are going to be part of the puzzle, it helps to have all the pieces," Bushhouse said.
However, that would come at an additional cost, likely borne by the township. It's unclear whether such a review of the facility is on the township's radar.
Williams Architects initially included the Scout Cabin in its proposed needs assessment. However, trustees favored swapping out that facility for the downtown train station. Bushhouse said he would review whether that change would warrant changing the price of the study.
As of Nov. 27, the village did not have an update on any change in cost, said Frances. Williams Architects is reviewing an audit of the train station completed by Metra two years ago.
"If the total cost exceeds what has been approved by the village board, I will bring this matter back to the village board for a change order," Frances said.
It will likely be late spring or early summer before Williams Architects comes back to the village board with its space assessment/conditions report. It would be after that presentation that village officials would look to engage the public with how facilities options might play out in the future.
The entire process should be complete within seven to eight months, Frances said.