New plaza should by ready by the fall

Village, library to renovate Memorial Building patio in honor of 150th anniversary

The annual Memorial Day ceremony that took place Monday will have a new setting next year - a renovated plaza on the south side of the Memorial Building.

"She is in need of some love and we are hoping to fix that," Trustee Michelle Fisher said of the area at the May 19 Hinsdale Village Board meeting.

Improving the plaza first was discussed last year as part of the village's 150th anniversary celebration. The $400,000 project will be jointly funded by the village and the Hinsdale Public Library.

"The library is wonderful," Fisher said. "It's a community space and a shared space. We're very happy that they wanted to come in and be a big part of this project."

The village has collected about $70,000 in donations and will make up the remaining $130,000 with money it set aside for the 150th observance.

The patio area, which is now about 3,000 square feet, will be expanded by 800 square feet and paved with a solid Unilock brick called Beacon Hill, Fisher said. Carved-out areas on the east and west sides will be paved with the same type of red bricks used in the downtown business district. Seat walls in those areas will be created using leftover bricks from First Street to "add a special touch and bring history into the space," Fisher said.

Simple black metal tables and chairs will fill the center portion to preserve the view of the building. Patio umbrellas will provide shade for tables and chairs placed in the carve-outs.

"You can sit there, relax, have lunch," Fisher said, noting electricity will be installed in the seat walls for those who need to charge a phone or laptop.

In addition to the Memorial Day ceremony, the area also is used during the village's holiday tree-lighting ceremony, by participants of the Uniquely Thursdays concert series and for library programs. The opportunity to improve that space fit well with the library's recently completed strategic plan, library board President John Bloomfield said. One directive was to "explore partnership opportunities to create outdoor areas that incorporate shade and connect residents to nature."

"The timing was perfect," Bloomfield said. "We were finishing that (plan) up in December.

"This is a great opportunity," he added. "We can share the cost. The village will do a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of permitting and construction bidding. In return, we'll get guaranteed access to run programs on the new patio."

Those programs will include Lunch on the Lawn, storytimes, summer reading kickoff celebrations and after dark concerts. Other events, such as the Mid Autumn Festival, attracted 400 participants and would have benefited from access to outdoor space, Bloomfield said. Other programs could take place there as well.

"On a nice night, wouldn't it be great to have some of our young adult programs outside instead of downstairs?" he asked.

The library has enough money in its capital reserve to cover the cost, Bloomfield said, noting it is an appropriate expense.

"The library is funded by Hinsdale residents," he said. "It's a double win. They can use it for library programs and they can also use it for village programs. We thought it made sense.

"It's a beautiful space. It's a beautiful building. I think it will just make it even more functional so more people can come and enjoy the building," he added.

Fisher said she can't wait to see the final project and thanked all who helped fund it, especially individual donors.

"I'm very excited with what the plans look like right now," she said. "It is a very special and meaningful space, and the fact that we were able to come together for the 150th and renovate this to carry us on to the next years, that speaks to our village."

Work is expected to begin after Labor Day and be completed this fall.

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean