Caldwell Woods warming shelter to be transformed into ‘wellness studio’ as part of state grant
by CYRYL JAKUBOWSKI
The warming shelter in Caldwell Woods at 6350 W. Devon Ave. will be transformed into a multi-use space tentatively called the “Caldwell Woods Wellness Studio” as part of a $1,228,800 state grant provided to the Forest Preserve District of Cook County for improvements.
“We do have a grant to turn the Caldwell Woods warming shelter into a wellness center,” Forest Preserve District of Cook County director of communications Carl Vogel said.
Vogel said the district held an open house on Aug. 5 at the shelter where residents were able look at display boards with the proposed improvements, talk with staff and provide feedback. District staff said that a total of about 30 to 40 people attended the event, which was held in conjunction with a native plant sale at the forest preserve.
Vogel said that most of the improvements have already been funded but that the district welcomes feedback from residents. More than $24.9 million in state grant funding has been approved for local governments to construct, renovate, and improve buildings or purchase land to be used for public access and recreation.
The funding is made available through the Park and Recreational Facility Construction Act grant program, which is administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The grant will fund about 75 percent of the estimated cost of the proposed improvements. The total scope of the project is about $1.6 million, Vogel said.
“We are still interested in hearing from the public about how to best implement these changes – particularly for the wellness and welcome center – but those are funded to move forward,” Vogel said in an e-mail.
Some of the proposed improvements include the demolition of concession spaces, reconstructing space for an indoor recreation wellness studio for small and large classes for yoga, pilates, cultural arts and other wellness-related classes, as well as updating site utilities including the heating and cooling system, according to Tim Weber, an architect for the forest preserve district in the planning and development department. Work on the improvements would likely start in the summer of 2022, Weber said.
“We are hoping to redesign that space. We are thinking of having movable wall panels to be able to open up that space,” Weber said. “People at the open house were generally positive and gave positive comments and were excited about it. People are interested in having the site be used more for activities.”
The proposed floor plan shows that the new studio would feature a new main entrance with an information kiosk, a welcome desk, men’s and women’s restrooms, office space, the wellness studio space, storage, a mechanical room, an accessible room, a janitor closet and an information technology closet.
The floor plan also shows using the existing fire pit inside the shelter that has a large air vent exhaust (see picture on Page 9) but Weber said that the district doesn’t know if that will be in the final plan and that’s what they would like to find out from the community through feedback.
“That’s an open question. We don’t know what’s going to happen with that. It’s been rarely used and we are thinking of having maybe a fire pit outside,” Weber said.
Other proposed improvements that are funded by the grant include trail realignment to ADA standards, a sidewalk connection to Devon and Milwaukee avenue, a kiosk/information sign, a proposed multi-use path going from the shelter to the Whealan Aquatic Center, sidewalks, ramps, and curbs improvements to ADA standards, and repaving a damaged roadway.
Weber said that some improvements would be funded by a different grant and those may include repair of concrete sledding hill stairs, new outdoor seating and improvements to an informal hiking path from the pool parking lot to a scenic spot on the North Branch of the Chicago River.
In 2015, forest preserves staff held a focus group meeting with representatives from volunteer ecological stewardship groups and the Village of Niles regarding possible improvements. The forest preserve also held two virtual open houses this summer to gather more feedback from residents on the improvements.
The forest preserve district is also developing a 10-year vision plan for the Caldwell Preserves which include Caldwell Woods, Bunker Hill, Sydney Yates Flatwoods and Edgebrook Woods.
The plan will help guide investing in installing new information and way-finding signs, creating a year-round visitor center, explore feasibility of fund-raising for capital improvements, identify and complete visitor-focused landscape restoration projects, continue managing trails, support volunteer work, and cultivate local relationships and encourage partners to host events, according to the forest preserve Web site.
The district also is holding a Caldwell Woods improvement survey through Sept. 15.
For more information, visit https://fpdcc.com/about/plans-projects/caldwell-preserves-vision-plan-improvements/