Can Glen Ellyn District 41 get village to delay COD deal?

College wants same Glen Ellyn civic center space Dist. 41 wants park district to have in order to clear rec center space

Glen Ellyn trustees may vote today to allow the College of DuPage to open a business incubator in the former police station, but Glen Ellyn Elementary District 41 officials want to delay the deal.

In a letter to his counterparts in the village and park district, Superintendent Paul Gordon is asking for more time to develop a competing plan for the old police site in the downtown civic center.

All three sides have talked informally over the past 10 weeks about a plan to move park district administrative offices from the Spring Avenue Recreation Center to the civic center. District 41, in turn, would use the north wing of the rec center for an early learning program that serves about 150 students at Forest Glen Elementary.

Gordon acknowledges the village is "well along" in negotiations with COD and that it asked District 41 to submit a proposal by last Wednesday.

But District 41 wants the village to delay a decision on a 10-year agreement with COD until the end of January to allow officials to iron out details and negotiate with the park district.

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

But park leaders also say they're content where they are and would shift offices only if the school district pays for the move and renovations of the civic center space.

Those commitments for the school district could cost $1.5 million to $2 million, according to a preliminary estimate. A higher price tag "may cause the school district to reconsider," Gordon wrote.

Space concerns surfaced in District 41 partly because of a proposed subdivision near Center Ice of DuPage that could increase enrollment at Forest Glen.

The school district also has searched for space for full-day kindergarten. In 2016, building an early learning center on district-owned land was estimated to cost $29 million.

Gordon wrote that Forest Glen and Churchill Elementary schools would not be able to accommodate roughly 60 more students projected to enroll in the next few years without increasing class sizes.

"An agreement should also save our respective taxpayers considerable dollars by avoiding altogether or at least significantly delaying new construction by the school district to meet its space needs due to anticipated growth and development in the village," Gordon wrote.

Village Trustee Pete Ladesic supports giving the school district more time and takes issue with a "quasi-private group" moving into the civic center. He said there are "far greater opportunities for COD to find space" than those available to the other local taxing bodies.

COD trustees last month approved registering Innovation DuPage - a business incubator for startups and an accelerator for mature businesses - as a not-for-profit corporation. The school also wants to move its Center for Entrepreneurship from a Lisle office building to part of the civic center's second floor.

Village President Diane McGinley endorses the college's plan to invest roughly $1.7 million in renovations at the civic center to make way for Innovation DuPage. Trustees also are considering whether to spend another $1.3 million to update and relocate village offices.

The college has asked for a decision this month.

"Unfortunately the proposal from District 41 still doesn't contain any data and hasn't really moved forward on the info we need," McGinley said. "It's simply a request for more time, even though they've been in talks for 10 weeks."

Even if developers move forward with the subdivision, McGinley questions the impact on schools. With plans for first-floor master bedrooms and smaller lot sizes, the homes may be more geared to seniors, she said.

McGinley said a comparable neighborhood built across from Glen Crest Middle School added 15 students to Glen Ellyn Elementary District 89.

In a memo, village staff members called the innovation hub an economic driver allowing "businesses easy access to these services, creating a regional approach to business creation, providing some marketing and branding for Glen Ellyn, and creating a strong partnership for the future."

"In short, turning our back on the Innovation DuPage concept at the eleventh hour because of a potential need of another taxing district is shortsighted," the memo states.

Trustees will discuss the issues at 6 tonight and could vote on the pact later in the night.

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