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updated: 11/4/2017 4:08 PM

Glen Ellyn District 41 could make the case for renovating Civic Center space

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  • Glen Ellyn trustees will revisit a debate on Nov. 13 about whether to allow College of DuPage to open a business incubator and accelerator in the downtown civic center.

      Glen Ellyn trustees will revisit a debate on Nov. 13 about whether to allow College of DuPage to open a business incubator and accelerator in the downtown civic center.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Officials have raised the possibility of moving park district offices to the historic McKee House to free room in the Spring Avenue Recreation Center for the Glen Ellyn Elementary District 41 early learning program.

    Officials have raised the possibility of moving park district offices to the historic McKee House to free room in the Spring Avenue Recreation Center for the Glen Ellyn Elementary District 41 early learning program.
    Daily Herald File Photo

 
 

After College of DuPage officials made their case last month for opening a business incubator in the former Glen Ellyn police station, village officials gave Glen Ellyn Elementary District 41 until Wednesday to offer a competing plan.

School district officials have floated a proposal to relocate park district administrative offices from the Spring Avenue Recreation Center into the old police station in the village-owned downtown civic center. District 41, in turn, would use the northern wing of the recreation center for an early learning program currently housed at Forest Glen Elementary School.

School board members could decide Monday whether to formally submit a proposal to the village, a district spokeswoman said. Glen Ellyn trustees would then consider both options Nov. 13.

Village President Diane McGinley supports the plan by the college to invest roughly $1.5 million in renovations at the civic center to make way for Innovation DuPage -- a business incubator for startups and an accelerator for more mature companies.

The state's largest community college also wants to move its Center of Entrepreneurship from a Lisle office building to the northeast corner of the civic center's second floor.

College of DuPage trustees late last month approved registering Innovation DuPage as a not-for-profit corporation. McGinley and other village leaders see its programs and events as an economic development opportunity.

"That invites new people to our downtown, exposes them to our stores, exposes them to our restaurants," she said.

McGinley also said officials have raised the possibility of moving park district administrative offices to the McKee House in the Churchill Woods Forest Preserve to free room in the recreation center for District 41.

"We still want to help them, which is why we have been brainstorming and trying to identify other locations that might actually be a better fit," McGinley said. "We just don't know at this point."

District 41 and park district staffers have toured both the civic center and the 1930s-era McKee House. The DuPage County Forest Preserve District inked a deal with the village in May to lease it and other maintenance buildings on the site.

As part of the agreement, a private group has until Oct. 1, 2019, to raise $400,000 to restore the McKee House, a limestone structure that has fallen into disrepair and sat vacant since 2002.

Preservationists also have until Oct. 1, 2022, to complete the improvements and get an occupancy permit. If they don't meet either deadline, the village would demolish the McKee buildings.

Park district leaders say they are content where they are and would move their offices only if the school district pays for relocation and renovation costs.

Executive Director Dave Harris said the park district would need roughly 5,000 square feet to accommodate offices for about 15 employees. The park district would still operate the southern wing of the recreation center and the dog park behind the building.

"We're always open to ideas and assistance to other fellow taxing bodies to see if we can do things that are mutually beneficial for our shared constituents," Harris said.

Space concerns have surfaced in District 41 because of a proposed subdivision near Center Ice of DuPage that could lead to more students enrolling at Forest Glen Elementary.

Developers have sought only informal feedback about the project, Village Manager Mark Franz said last month. Given the smaller lot sizes and floor plans, the subdivision also may be more geared toward seniors.

The school district in recent years has searched for space for full-day kindergarten, a program offered by surrounding districts. In 2016, building an early learning center on vacant district-owned land was estimated to cost up to $29 million.

Given those issues, Glen Ellyn Trustee Pete Ladesic contends village officials should seriously consider the District 41 concept for the former police station on the first floor of the civic center.

"If we provided space for existing local taxing bodies, that is a known savings and a quantifiable savings, if it prevented the school district from building an early center or (helped it find) housing for kids for full-day kindergarten," Ladesic said.

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