Site doesn't make grade for D181 admins

The search for a permanent administrative center for Community Consolidated Elementary District 181 continues after a Hinsdale office building was deemed too large and pricey.

At Monday’s school board meeting, Rick Engstrom, assistant superintendent of business and operations, told board members that the 26,0000-square-foot building at 211 W. Chicago Ave. was the only one of seven options put forward by consultant JLL Commercial Real Estate deemed potentially viable.

But Engstrom said the benefits of the site, namely its location and ability to accommodate district needs, were not enough to justify the $11.3 million it would cost the district to purchase and remodel it.

“The administration believes the pros slightly outweigh the cons, but probably not enough to persuade that this property is right for the district,” he said. “We think it would just be best to continue researching options.”

Earlier this year the board decided to set aside $7 million for the project. The administrative center is currently housed at 115 W. 55th St. in Clarendon Hills, which is outside the district’s boundaries. The district is in the first year of a five-year lease that costs $206,658 annually, and officials have set their sights on buying a property within the district.

The ideal space would be about 12,000 square feet, which the 211 W. Chicago Ave. building far exceeds, noted Mike Duggan, director of facilities.

“It’s more than twice the size that we really need,” Duggan said.

Board member Sheetal Rao inquired about leasing out some of the space to tenants.

“Is there a way to rent any of the extra space out to offset costs?” Rao asked.

Engstrom said that would be at the board’s discretion.

“That would be an option if we wanted to go down that road or pursue that,” he replied.

Engstrom said 125 S. Vine St. in Hinsdale, which was formerly Zion Lutheran School, had also emerged as a potential target. But that property was no longer available as of last week, he stated. Board member Bill Cotter asked why.

“They have received an offer that they’re pretty close to signing,” Engstrom replied.

Superintendent Hector Garcia suggested that the more prudent path is to find a more suitable solution than accept a site that is not aligned with the district’s vision.

“We’re going to continue, obviously, in this process to find the right building,” said. “We still have some time but we’ll continue to try to identify the right place.”

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean