Officials seek Oak Brook village board's OK to improve Central Park
The Oak Brook Park District is seeking permission from the village to make millions of dollars in improvements to its largest park.
But while the village's plan commission is recommending a special-use permit be granted for the Central Park project, another advisory panel -- the zoning board of appeals -- is recommending denial.
It will be up to the village board to make a final decision Sept. 12.
Park officials say they want to make changes to the 71-acre park near Jorie Boulevard and Forest Gate Road, including adding walking paths, developing a new playground, building a clubhouse and improving the accessibility and safety of existing ball fields.
"I think it's a great plan," Executive Director Laure Kosey said Wednesday. "We're making the area a better and safer place to play. And according to our community survey that was in October 2016, this is what the community wants."
If the village approves the special-use permit for the plan, work will be done in two phases on the southeast portion of Central Park.
Right now, that area includes one larger ball field and three smaller ones.
As part of the first phase, the larger ball field would he moved south and west to increase the distance between home plate and the backstop. The field also would get new LED lights. In addition, existing light standards that are in the field of play would be moved.
Kosey said the changes to the field are intended to increase player safety. There also are plans to make two of the smaller fields handicapped-accessible.
But the plan to shift the larger ball field is being opposed by neighbors because lights would be moved closer to their homes. Lighting was one issue zoning board members raised Aug. 1 when they voted 4-2 to recommend denial of the special-use permit.
Kosey said the park district doesn't want to create a disruptive situation for neighbors and that officials will address concerns about the lights Sept. 12.
In the meantime, the district has an August 2018 deadline to complete the first phase of the project because it received a $400,000 grant from the state to help pay for the ball field improvements. Another $800,000 for the first phase is being paid by the district.
As part of the work, walking paths would be added and a parking lot would be expanded. Two existing playgrounds also would be replaced with one large playground.
Park officials are hoping the new playground will be a "universal playground" designed to accommodate people of all ages and abilities.
"There's going to be a playground no matter what," Kosey said. "It might be a $150,000 playground. But if we can do this universal playground -- which is more expensive -- by raising money, that's what we'd really like to do."
The district is attempting to raise up to $1 million to pay for the universal playground. The scope of the project will depend on how much money is raised.
If the district can proceed with the overall plan for Central Park, construction is expected to begin in spring.
Work planned for the second phase includes eliminating one of the smaller ball fields and adding a clubhouse that would have concessions, bathrooms and space for senior programming.
It's unknown, however, when the next phase would begin because the district still needs to raise an estimated $5.8 million to pay for it.
"Right now, there's no plan (to raise that money)," Kosey said. "We're just focusing on phase one."