WILMETTE – The Wilmette Park District board unanimously approved a new design for the Gillson Park beach house and parking lot at a meeting on February 12.
Woodhouse Tinucci Architects were sensitive to residents’ feedback that the beach house should meet the community’s needs, while not detracting in any way from views of the lake.
“We approached this project with the understanding that beaches are way more exciting than buildings,” Andy Tinucci told the board.
With that in mind, the beach house design is a series of low-lying buildings connected by a shade roof, comprised of durable materials of a natural color palette, such as weathered wood or aggregate concrete.
“The building blends into the landscape, becoming invisible in a landscape that never wanted a building to begin with,” Tinucci said.
While the beach house is designed to fade into the landscape, it still offers the amenities that residents requested in surveys, and shrinks the total concrete surface area from 19,600 square feet to 10,800 square feet. The northern pavilion holds restrooms, which include additional toilets in both the women’s and men’s bathroom, as well as showers in the family bathroom. The center pavilion includes ticketing and administrative offices, while the southern-most pavilion houses a concession area complete with a full kitchen.
The views were central to the architects design, even as they re-designed the entry drive and parking lot. “When you first come down that hill…you are struck by the beauty of the natural resource,” Tinucci said. Some existing trees around the beach entries will be eliminated to expand the views.
The entry drive was widened to include two inbound lanes, while the gate house was set back to accommodate traffic. In the new design, season pass holders can enter through a separate lane, than those purchasing a daily pass.
Likewise, the new design aims to keep bicyclists and pedestrians separate from traffic, with a widened path down the center of the park that leads to the beach house. Bike racks are dispersed throughout the design, with bike parking at the picnic area, the sailing beach, along the main path, and the northern and southern end of the beach house. With a beach house that is below the sight line of the horizon, pedestrians and cyclists will have an expansive view of the beach and lake.
While the architects and board continued to grapple over the exact number of existing parking spots in the beach parking lot, the new design aims to maintain the number of parking spaces, while addressing issues of flooding and maintaining the footprint of the lot. Roni Crystal was the only resident who spoke at the meeting, raising concerns that the new design miscalculated the number of existing parking spaces, resulting in a reduced number of parking spots.
The redesign includes planting islands strategically placed throughout the lot, where water will flow and then drain during larger rain events. Tinucci acknowledge that this design “comes at the cost of parking spaces,” it is an issue Tinucci said the firm will reconsider to optimize the number of parking spaces, while still addressing stormwater management.
Overall, the commissioners were pleased with the redesign, acknowledging that some changes may need to be made to the number of parking spaces in the lot. But Shelley Shelly also urged fellow board members not to dwell on the exact number of existing parking spaces. “Let’s move forward, we will get as many (spaces) as we can and keep it safe,” Shelly said.
The projected cost of the beach house and parking lot redesign comes at a price tag of $9.35 million, approximately what the park district had forecasted in its financials. If all goes as planned, construction will begin after the 2018 summer swimming season, and be complete in time for the 2019 beach season.
To view Tinucci’s presentation, with many images, visit www.wilmettepark.org.