District 21 proposes administration and community service center in development next door

New administration, community service center proposed

  • A new Wheeling Township Elementary District 21 administration building and center for social service agencies is being considered for the London Crossing mixed-use project being developed on Dundee Road in Wheeling.

    A new Wheeling Township Elementary District 21 administration building and center for social service agencies is being considered for the London Crossing mixed-use project being developed on Dundee Road in Wheeling. Russell Lissau | Staff Photographer, January 2021

 
 
Updated 5/7/2021 2:57 PM

Currently in a building that's nearly six decades old, Wheeling Township Elementary District 21 officials are considering moving their administrative center to a mixed-use development being built next door, while welcoming a host of social service agencies under their roof.

The district's proposed community service and administration center would be within the 11.5-acre site being developed as London Crossing by Mount Prospect-based Wingspan Development Group. Wingspan's sister company, Nicholas & Associates, is the construction manager on District 21 capital projects.

 

The development, on land once home to the Dundee Plaza shopping center on Dundee Road west of Elmhurst Road, would have 55 townhouses and about 32,600 square feet of commercial space in three buildings. It would be just east of District 21's Gill Administration Center and London Middle School.

District officials have been talking with the developer about a potential lease or purchase deal since last fall, but they're taking further steps after the full school board reviewed the concept for the first time late last week.

Officials are considering a 30,000-square-foot facility that would cost $12 million, or a 42,500-square-foot facility for $15.8 million.

Either would be three stories: the first floor for social service agencies and medical exam rooms, the second floor for the school board room and meeting rooms, and the third floor for district administrative offices.

Michael DeBartolo, the district's assistant superintendent for finance and operations, has recommended using a mix of reserves and borrowing to pay for the project. The proposal would include a down payment of $2.5 million to $5 million, then financing the rest over a 10- to 15-year period.

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DeBartolo said the plan wouldn't result in a property tax increase.

Board President Phil Pritzker said the proposed building -- through the services it would provide District 21 students and families -- has the potential of being the epicenter of the diverse school community.

"Even though we are in a huge suburban market, I think the complexity of our district, the makeup of our district, is crying out for the type of facility and scheduling opportunities that this particular opportunity that we have presents," Pritzker said.

After initial review by the board's finance committee in November, district administrators gauged the interest of community service organizations and medical providers who already service District 21 families, including OMNI Youth Services, Hands on Suburban Chicago, Northwest Special Recreation Association and YWCA. Those groups, as well as medical, dental and optical providers, expressed interest in having exam rooms and offices in the new building.

District officials began looking at the prospect of a new administration center after considering what it would cost to renovate their existing 1960s-era building. An initial estimate to upgrade the 26,600-square-foot structure is $10.3 million, though administrators and school board members fear it could be more.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"You never know when you open up a wall or are dealing with a renovation what you are going to find," said board member Arlen Gould. "In a project like that it could easily be a couple million dollars in hidden costs that we don't know. That pushed me more towards the (new) facility."

Most board members favored the larger of the two proposed new building projects, though Jessica Riddick said she has some hesitation.

"The way I see the risk playing out is we undertake this huge project, we go through another full year of construction, we build our dream building, we get all these community partners lined up, everyone's super excited -- they get in for the first 4, 5, 6 years -- everything's going great, and then that excitement either wanes or the positive side would be we become so entrenched as a community partner that this is just the way things are done now," Riddick said. "And none of us have the foresight to see which side we're going to come down on."

The board is expected to review plans again, before approvals are sought through the village of Wheeling. A preliminary groundbreaking would be in the fall, with completion a year later.

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