By Bob Uphues
While the "official" groundbreaking for the Linda Sokol Francis Brookfield Library is still somewhat up in the air – the plan is for work to begin in earnest the week of April 13 – technically the digging started March 25.
That morning, a backhoe rolled up onto the site of the future library at 3541 Park Ave. and excavated a "test hole" in preparation for shoring work needed for the project.
The test hole dig was supposed to have taken place a week earlier, but was postponed in the uncertainty of an impending statewide stay-at-home order and the closure of non-essential businesses.
However, last week the construction industry learned it was deemed "essential," allowing work to continue for now if companies choose to do so. Whether that will remain the case is unclear.
"We're in unprecedented territory here," said Dan Eallonardo, the Brookfield Library Board's owner's representative for the project. "We in the construction industry are reacting hourly. No one knows."
Asked on March 23 if mid-April was still the presumed time frame for the start of construction, Library Director Kimberly Coughran said, "Nothing is for certain right now. It's too early to know whether we'll be moving forward the week of April 13. All I can say right now is that we're on for the test hole."
As of March 26, Eallonardo said the original start date is still what officials are shooting for.
"The start date is still pending issuance of the building permit from the village, but our hope is that the work will start as originally scheduled, April 13," Eallonardo said in an email.
Diane Papenhause, project manager for the contractor, IHC Construction Companies, said she was meeting with village officials next week to go over construction staging.
When excavation does begin, the construction site will be fenced off and there will be some impacts immediately adjacent to the property.
According to Eallonardo, the first phase of the plan, which involves the construction of the new building, will require closing a portion of Lincoln Avenue to traffic. Fencing will enclose the entire site and will extend to the south curb line on Lincoln Avenue between Park Avenue and the alley immediately east of the property.
The placement of the fence will also result in losing the diagonal parking spaces outside the Brookfield Public Library on Lincoln Avenue. The existing library at 3609 Grand Blvd. will remain open during the entire period of construction.
That street closure will be lengthy, probably about a year, with that portion of Lincoln Avenue serving as a main construction staging area, said Eallonardo. Fencing will also close the sidewalk and parkway on the east side of Park Avenue adjacent to the construction site.
"The plan was a collaboration between the architect and the village of Brookfield, in terms of coming up with guidelines for construction staging in the area," Eallonardo said.
The alley east of the construction site will remain open to residents. Eallonardo said the contract specifically excludes IHC Construction from using the alley.
Crews will be allowed to work during the times allowed by the village code, meaning between 7:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays; and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
However, said Eallonardo, "The contractor has not indicated working a tremendous amount of overtime." Weekend work, as a result, appears unlikely.
Residents of the area may also note an increase in the number of vehicles belonging to construction workers parked on the street during working hours.
Once the new library opens its doors, work will shift into phase two, which involves demolishing the existing library and constructing a parking lot and small corner park in its place.
During that phase of work, Lincoln Avenue will be reduced to one lane of westbound traffic on the north side of the street.