Brookfield trustees on Aug. 22 voted unanimously to award a contract to Itasca-based Williams Architects to conduct a feasibility study for a community recreation center in the village.
Williams Architects, which specializes in municipal design and has completed numerous rec center projects in Chicago and the suburbs, will be paid roughly $88,300.
The study will explore where in Brookfield a multipurpose, multi-generational community recreation center might be located and what the options and cost would be for building a new facility on either purchased or leased property or renovating an existing municipal building for such a purpose.
The action follows a discussion of the matter at the village board’s July 25 committee of the whole meeting, where trustees expressed support for the idea. At that meeting Recreation Director Stevie Ferrari laid out the need for dedicated recreation space for the village.
Brookfield’s recreation department operates out of the basement of the village hall and has used intergovernmental agreements with local school districts to provide venues for much of its programming.
While those agreements have worked well, there are no guarantees those agreements will continue in the future, and they require coordination and transportation that would not be necessary if the department had an appropriate site for its programming.
Brookfield, Ferrari told trustees in July, was “the only community among our surrounding cities and villages that does not provide a dedicated community space for our residents.”
Trustee Brian Conroy called Brookfield’s lack of a community recreation center “the greatest deficiency we have in our offerings. … Frankly, it’s an embarrassment.”
In July, Village Manager Timothy Wiberg said “there would be no option that is off the table” with respect to either identifying a site for a new rec center or repurposing an existing building for one.
While there have been no cost estimates suggested for such an initiative, this feasibility study would provide such figures after Williams Architects determines what it is Brookfield is looking to offer its residents.
The village’s contract with Williams Architects lays out a timeline for the study, with the firm gathering data this fall before engaging the public directly in early 2023. That engagement will include an online survey and other unspecified “in-person opportunities to provide feedback.”
A call by the Landmark to Andy Dogan, principal at Williams Architects who appeared before the village board during their discussion of the feasibility study in July, to get more information on public engagement was not returned.
In July, Dogan told trustees, “We like to go far beyond the traditional open house … and really try to meet people where they are in the community. … We want to experiment with different ways to reach people in Brookfield, let them know about the project, truly and intentionally get their feedback on any concerns they may have so those can be addressed and the community knows that we’ve listened.”
Following the public engagement, Williams Architects will work up three options for village officials to consider, and the firm is tentatively scheduled to present preliminary findings in February.
Williams Architects will calculate cost estimates and present the feasibility study publicly at a village board meeting next April or May, according to the contract.
Whether or not the feasibility study will result in any action by elected officials is unknown. When Williams Architects did a similar feasibility study for renovating/expanding municipal offices for the village of Riverside in 2018, elected officials there decided to put plans on hold indefinitely after the study indicated that the cost to simply renovate existing spaces would be between $7 million and $9 million, while price tag for expanding the municipal campus would be more than $20 million.
Williams Architects also did a feasibility study for the Park District of Forest Park as it sought to build a new recreation center, which the firm also designed.
That was a years’ long effort that involved convincing voters to approve a referendum to fund the project in 2010, the park district acquiring an industrial property in 2013, remediating the site and landing $2.5 million in state grant funding for the $6 million rec center, which opened its doors in 2018.