Work on New Trier’s $75-million project to replace its historic Gates Gymnasium is moving forward as planned, school officials said during the board of education’s June meeting.
District officials are “well underway” with design and planning work related to the project and plans are now making their way in front of the Village of Winnetka for necessary approvals, according to Chris Johnson, New Trier’s associate superintendent.
Johnson provided board members with an update on the project’s status, noting that “really exciting progress is being made.”
At the meeting, the board approved the project’s first bid package for $884,902. That package includes three trades: electrical, mechanical and site work, according to a memo from Johnson, who added utility and site preparation work will be done this summer.
That work will involve “relocating electrical and natural gas lines, switching the existing pool dehumidification and pool heating system off the steam boilers which will be demolished, and installing a new electrical generator,” Johnson said in the memo.
Officials said the bids for the remaining work will be sent out in two large-scale packages in the fall that will make up the majority of work. In total, more than $60 million worth of work will be bid out for the project, officials said.
The first package of work is starting soon because it will “facilitate a smooth official start to construction in December 2021,” Johnson said. The district also prefers the work be done in the summer so the impact on students and staff, and the school’s learning environment, is minimal.
Back in February this year, the district’s board of education unanimously approved the $75-million project that will demolish the school’s historic gym and reimagine the east side of the high school’s campus, as previously reported by The Record.
Plans call for the construction of a new, three-story athletics and kinetic wellness facility that will address what officials called a “glaringly evident need” resulting from “underinvestment over many years.”
The project includes a new competition gym, six-lane indoor track, artificial turf field, cardio and weight-training spaces, multiple auxiliary gyms, and 12 new academic learning spaces, eight of which will be classrooms.
Construction on the project is slated to begin in December of this year with a target completion date of August 2023.
Per Johnson, the design development stage of the project is ongoing. He noted this is the phase where officials are “really getting the design set in broad terms.”
This phase will likely continue until the end of June, according to officials. Once it’s completed, the district will begin preparing plans for permitting and further bidding documents, Johnson said.
The conclusion of the design development process is regularly the point where a new cost estimate is developed, according to Johnson. He said the cost estimate following the phase should be completed by the end of June.
New Trier plans to develop two cost estimates, one completed by the project’s construction management company and the other by an independent cost estimator. The entities will then meet together to provide the district with a final cost estimate, according to officials.
Johnson said if the cost estimate exceeds the previously set $75-million budget, the district, along with the construction and design companies, will work to determine steps “to maintain the original budget.”
The project is also currently undergoing a security evaluation to ensure what officials describe as the creation of “a facility that provides a safe educational environment for (New Trier) students, staff and visitors.”
Spaces throughout the new facility will be designed to “support designated safe areas and to have easy egress in case of emergency,” Johnson said. “They will also include electronic door locks, building isolation technology, secure vestibules and shatter resistant glass.”
The project requires several approvals from the Village of Winnetka — which officials said is typical for large construction projects, particularly at New Trier. It will need to appear in front of Winnetka’s Zoning Board of Appeals, Design Review Board, Plan Commission and Village Council.
Final approval from the Village could come as soon as July 6, per Johnson, who noted it could also get stretched out to the beginning of August.
“It’s largely whether we can get all the right folks together for meetings and (that) they have the information that they need,” he said.
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Martin Carlino is a co-founder and the senior editor who assigns and edits The Record stories, while also bylining articles every week. Martin is an experienced and award-winning education reporter who was the editor of The Northbrook Tower.