Winnetka Park District is moving forward with its $2 million dollar plan to transform Hubbard Woods Park.
In a 5-1 vote the Winnetka Village Council approved introduction of the Park District’s request for a special use permit. The special use cannot be formally approved for another two weeks.
Over the past eighteen months the Park District has been working with the Village and community groups to develop plans that would improve Hubbard Woods, a 1 1/2 acre park located on Green Bay Road near the train station. The Park District plans include replacing the existing shelter with a new pavilion that will include bathroom facilities, a new playground with a splash pad, improved pedestrian pathways and enhanced landscaping.
While the Park District originally planned to defray the $2 million dollar price tag with a roughly $400,000 grant from the State, Gov. Bruce Rauner has currently suspended those funds.
“We are hopeful we will get those dollars released,” said Park District Executive Director Robert Smith. Smith reassured the Council that the Park District is nonetheless able to fully fund the project if the grant is not released.
The Park District’s plans will provide extensive upgrades to the park, without disturbing mature trees and with an eye to helping with the Village’s downtown business re-development.
But Trustee Richard Kates, the only council member to vote against the special use permit, expressed concern that relocating the playground from its current Northwest location to the Southeast corner of the park would hurt local businesses. Kates worried that the new amenities would draw crowds and cause parking problems.
Hubbard Woods business owner Mike Meyer was also concerned that the playground location would hurt his dry cleaning business, Greener Cleaner, because customers would have trouble parking.
Smith countered that moving the playground did not make sense, because it needed to be near the bathroom facilities. He also pointed to the parking study, which concluded that the upgraded park would not cause parking problems.
Trustee Carol Fessler supported the special use permit but took issue with the design of the pavilion. “I just have to say I am disappointed with the structure itself,” she said. Viewing the park as the “front door” of Winnetka, Trustee Fessler asked the Park District to reconsider its architectural design.
While Trustees Fessler and Kates questioned aspects of the project, the remaining Council members were enthusiastic about the Park District’s plans.
“There is one word to describe what you have done here and it is excellent,” said Arthur Braun. “I think it will be a crying shame if you are not allowed to build this.”
The Park District estimates that construction could start as early as August 2015.