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updated: 2/13/2014 11:18 AM

DuPage forest preserve looks at Graue Mill improvements

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  • The DuPage County Forest Preserve District, which owns Graue Mill, is considering whether to make structural improvements to the historic structure in Oak Brook.

    The DuPage County Forest Preserve District, which owns Graue Mill, is considering whether to make structural improvements to the historic structure in Oak Brook.
    Daily Herald file photo


Graue Mill in Oak Brook could get much-needed repairs and a major expansion, depending on how far DuPage County Forest Preserve commissioners want to go with proposed improvements to the historic structure.

Last year, a structural engineer concluded the 161-year-old mill along York Road is in relatively good condition for a building its age.

Still, numerous repairs are needed to address "repeated flooding of the structure, wear and tear on the mechanical gears and grist operations, and compromises to wooden structural components from past renovations," officials said.

If the work is done, it would preserve the safety and integrity of the building, which belongs to the forest preserve district.

But before work can proceed, forest preserve commissioners must approve it.

The board this week reviewed several options for the mill. The discussion ended without commissioners making a decision.

The proposals under consideration range from a $3.5 million plan that renovates the mill and builds an addition to doing nothing and closing the interior of the mill.

Officials acknowledge that closing the building wouldn't be a popular idea.

The not-for-profit DuPage Graue Mill Corp. has operated a museum in the mill since the 1950s.

Today, the mill is one of the most visited places in DuPage County, officials say.

But in order to make recommended structural improvements to the building, the forest preserve would need to spend $560,000, according to estimates.

That work would include cog gear rehabilitation, jig crane repairs and beam support improvements.

Additional improvements -- including rehabilitating the millrace, replacing the water wheel floor and winterizing the structure -- could increase the total repair bill to an estimated $1.1 million.

Kevin Horsfall, the district's supervising landscape architect, stressed that the prices associated with the work are conceptual at this point.

"The prices could fluctuate a little here and there," he said.

Doing all the improvements would reduce maintenance, stabilize the structure for the long-term and allow it to be used year-round. The mill currently closes during winter.

Still, the work wouldn't add public washrooms, wouldn't create extra space for programs and wouldn't address accessibility concerns.

Those issues would be resolved if the district decides to build an addition on the west side of the mill.

The addition would be designed to look similar to a historic addition that once stood on that spot, officials said.

"We want to make sure we're not significantly altering the character of the structure," Horsfall said.

If the district chooses to build the roughly 2,800-square-foot, two-story addition, it would have an at-grade entrance and lobby with an elevator, an enclosed fireproof stairwell, a mechanical room, a classroom and bathrooms.

Doing all the improvements and constructing the large addition would cost an estimated $3.5 million.

The total cost could be reduced to about $2.7 million if the size of the addition is scaled back to about 1,600 square feet.

The smaller two-story addition wouldn't have a classroom or the bathrooms.

One unisex washroom would be added to the second floor of the mill.

A decision on which option commissioners want to pursue is expected later this year.

One question that first must be answered is how to pay for the work.

No funding has been identified or approved for the Graue Mill rehabilitation, officials said.

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