The recent shake-up in afterschool programming for Oak Park students threw a wrench into plans to construct a new community center at Mae Boyar Park. But it looks like the 50-year-old park building will at least get a face-lift.
The Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District, which oversees the community parks in Oak Park, had planned for a major $2-million renovation at the center. But when Oak Park Unified School District announced earlier this year it was discontinuing Rancho Simi’s AM/PM program and launching its own childcare in August, the park district was caught short on funds and decided to put the Mae Boyar Park renovation on hold.
At a meeting last week, however, the Rancho Simi board voted to set aside $35,000 to at least refurbish the community center’s exterior and renovate its bathrooms.
Wayne Nakaoka, Rancho Simi’s director of planning and maintenance, said he can contribute about $5,000 more from his office’s general fund.
“It’s just some basic improvements to the building, painting the exterior, redoing the bathrooms, to make them handicap accessible, possibly doing some interior improvements to the main room,” Nakaoka said. “Maybe we’ll paint the inside, put in a new floor, get some new ceiling tiles. They talked about doing improvements to the kitchen but I haven’t seen the kitchen myself so I can’t comment on what I can do in there yet.”
Nakaoka said the work will start this week and he hopes it will be finished in the next two months.
Drew Fountaine, chair of the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District’s Oak Park Committee, requested that Rancho Simi set aside some of the money for the Mae Boyar work from the sale of the park district headquarters building on Sycamore Drive in Simi, which is scheduled to close Aug. 31.
“We hope that the (Rancho Simi) board agrees that when the sale of the Simi building does happen that they will earmark a certain amount of the money toward replacing the Mae Boyar building,” said James Ebert, an Oak Park Committee member. “It’s not really our decision. As a committee, we can advise them and make suggestions but it’s really the Simi board that makes the decision on how they’re going to allocate the funding.”
The Rancho Simi board had completed a design of the new Mae Boyar building, and recently acquired construction permits that are valid for three years, so if funding comes through, the construction could start right away.
Ebert said the initial design included many features that may not make the final cut. In addition, the estimated cost of the building was much higher than expected. With the funding uncertain, Oak Park may have to take what it can get.
“The last 10 feet of the building are the cheapest to build,” Ebert said. “The first square foot is the most expensive, getting the plans, the permits, getting all the ducks in order to even break ground is the most expensive part of the process.”