Nine months after hiring an architecture firm to study and recommend options for a possible new municipal complex, Riverside now knows what undertaking such a project will cost taxpayers.
And it’s not cheap.
During a presentation before the Riverside Village Board on Aug. 16, Mark Bushhouse of Williams Architects laid out a pair of options for creating a new municipal complex east of the existing township hall that provide a more secure environment while creating greater direct connection between village departments.
One of the two plans would expand parking for village staff, and both plans envision creating parking areas in the greenspace along the river east of the Swinging Bridge. The plans also, to different degrees, try to provide more direct connections and views of the river both for staff and the public.
In terms of what such plans would cost, Bushhouse estimated that it would be anywhere between $22 million and $28.5 million, an amount that would trigger a referendum for voters to decide.
“We know it’s a lot,” Bushhouse told members of the village board, “but it does get these projects done for you.”
Should the village board decide to scrap the idea of building a new facility, Bushhouse estimated that it would cost between $7 million and $9 million to rehabilitate and update the existing village facilities.
That would leave village staff to operate in offices that are not securely connected and are in some cases inadequate to house such things as next generation fire engines or separate sleeping quarters for both male and female firefighter/paramedics.
Bushhouse said if the village decides to go the remodel route, that work ought to be done soon and at the same time to get efficiencies of scale for construction.
There was no discussion of how the village staff and emergency services would continue to operate while a new or remodeled municipal campus was under construction.
During the months-long investigation into existing conditions, space programming and site exploration, said Village President Ben Sells, the only viable location for a new municipal facility was the area immediately east of the township hall.
“It’s hard for me to imagine any other spot in town where we have this much space,” Sells said.
According to Sells, other locations looked at included the southeast corner of First and Forest Avenue. However, that was ruled out for a couple of reasons.
All of the property, except for the Parkview Road cutoff, is owned by the Cook County Forest Preserve District. Even if the county was willing to part with the land, it is located within a designated flood way, where building is prohibited.
The only other village-owned location with enough room to house such a complex is Harrington Park, which faces Harlem Avenue. However, there did not appear to be any enthusiasm for giving up the park for such a facility.
Trustee Wendell Jisa asked if planners had considered the north side of East Burlington Street, between the Village Center and Riverside Foods as a possible location. The properties between the two buildings are privately owned, but vacant.
However, Sells and other trustees balked at giving up such a large chunk of the commercial downtown, taking those properties off the tax rolls and introducing a competing use there.
Both options presented to the village board on Aug. 16 contemplate demolishing the old service garage, public works garage and youth center buildings which line the rear of the campus.
The plans would keep the shells of existing village-owned office space, including the existing village hall office, the police department and fire station. Those areas would be gutted and reconstructed. In both scenarios, recreation staff would occupy what is now the village hall offices, while administration, finance and community development would occupy the areas now housing police and fire.
Both plans envision the construction of a new police/fire facility with a large four-bay fire vehicle storage garage to the east. Both plans create a new main entry at the rear of the existing fire station, next to a new visitor parking area.
Where the plans differ is in how staff and police parking are handled. While both would create a new staff parking area east of the Swinging Bridge, Option B shows that lot would slope down to the west to a depth of 13 feet, which would lead into a secure underground police patrol and staff parking area under the new police/fire facility.
In Option A, the staff parking area is disconnected from the campus, and covered surface parking for police patrol vehicles is behind the township hall next to a new sally port.
The two plans also differ in how they take advantage of the riverfront. Option B’s plan is more ambitious, creating a walking path along the river that also connects to a green roof/sitting area behind the township hall that is accessible to the public and to the second floor of the new police/fire facility.
The plans presented on Aug. 16 did not go into any detail about the architectural style of a new facility or whether it would match or otherwise complement the existing township hall.
Bushhouse mentioned that the plan could also incorporate an additional story on the new police/fire facility, if the village wanted to seek a private partner to create a multipurpose space that could be used for events, conferences or other private or public gatherings.
In addition to such as space, Sells suggested opening up a greater area behind the new facility as a space for public use at all times.
“If we’re going to make this work for the community as a whole, and not just with regard to just police and fire, we really need to focus on how we can maximize this for public use on a continual basis and not just at off hours,” Sells said.
Next steps will include village staff exploring options for funding and scheduling public meetings to gather input and answer question from the community.