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Martin Ave. Barn to be Torn Down and Replaced by Expanded Maintenance Facility in 2014

As readers of this webpage or our membership newsletter may recall, the Caroline Martin Mitchell Planning Process (CMMPP), which begin in 2006, culminated in a series of changes that have affected, but have yet to fundamentally alter the historical traditions and overall land use in the West St. Corridor. One of the little heralded outcomes of the CMMPP was the creation of an annual stakeholder meeting, comprised of the “owners and operators” of the various activities on land given to the city by Martin-Mitchell and Emma Von Oven. The West St. Coalition was originally an approved stakeholder, but lost that status when the definition of stakeholder was amended, perhaps to produce the result of removing the WSGPC.       

       Although excluded from official participation in these annual meetings, we once again had reliable sources at the May 2nd get together. Beyond Sportsman’s Park developments, easily the most significant news was also made by the park district, with the announcement that the Martin Avenue Barn will be torn down in July of 2014. The structure is slated to be replaced by an expanded Central Maintenance Facility, which currently occupies the northern portion of the site.

      Tearing down “The Barn” has been contemplated for at least the past 15 years. However, the ultimate decision to proceed comes a full 3 years after the public input process surrounding the future of the Barn was held. Due to the length of time that has elapsed, and the scarce attention given the process at the time, it is safe to say that the majority of residents are not currently aware this decision has been made.

     In 2009 the park district conducted an internal study that not surprisingly identified deficiencies with the Barn. Built in part by volunteer labor, largely for the purpose of providing teenagers recreational options at a time when the district was much smaller, “The Barn” is not a “modern” facility. As well, an expansion of the Central Maintenance Facility, located just to the north of the Barn, is said to be long overdue. Both facilities are “near the end of their useful lifecycles”. As well, the Barn is not architecturally important from an historical perspective.

     On November 19th 2009, park district staff presented 3 concept plans for the Knoch Park Barn to the Park Board of Commissioners. Shortly after this workshop the district formed a 20 or so member Barn/ Shop Review Team comprised of individuals representing community organizations, program participants and other stakeholders. Lead by district staff, the 3 concepts presented at the workshop evolved into 3 defined options including:

 

  1. Renovate The Barn.
  2. Build a new Central Maintenance Facility.
  3. Build a new Recreation Center at the site.

     At a May 6th, 2010 public open house the 3 concept plans were presented with considerable detail. Comments were taken. WSGPC President George Bennett was present, expressing the concern that the district might opt to expand the Central Maintenance Facility beyond the current footprint of the combined Barn/Maintenance area. Although poorly attended, Bennett opened a dialogue with Park District Project Manager at the time John Lomas. Park District staff then presented the open house information to the Park Board at a May 27th workshop meeting, where the decision regarding the fate of the Barn was placed on hold. However, two overriding ideas were clear:

       1.     Staff and members of the committee were not interested in remodeling the Barn. It is       also said to be constructed in a way that would make it difficult to comply with the 2010 revisions to the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). It may not have been in compliance anyway.

       2.     The public did not want Knoch Park developed beyond the already existing footprint.

   In an e-mail correspondence received in July of 2010 Mr. Lomas wrote, “Based on our next steps, staff is further defining Option # 2 which is the expansion of the maintenance facility. When the information is completed, staff would present the findings to the public and Park Board. There currently is not a specific time frame for presentation.”

     Contrary to Mr. Lomas’ comments, Option #2 has been green-lighted with a bare minimum of additional public debate. The West St. Coalition is enthused that no attempts are being made to relocate either purpose elsewhere along West St., but certainly a compelling case can be made that valuable land such as this might have a better use than simple maintenance. The possibility also exists that those who are nostalgic for the Barn due to the fond memories they may harbor having grown up in Naperville will suddenly object as this project becomes more highly publicized.

     For our part, the West St. Coalition Board does not think the highest and best possible use for prime Knoch Park land is that of a maintenance facility.