Over village objections, Cary District 26 moves ahead with new bus center; will demolish Maplewood School

Demolition work could start as early as Thursday

The former Maplewood School, located at 422 Krenz Ave., is seen on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022 in Cary.

Demolition of Maplewood School in Cary could start as early as Thursday after Cary School District 26 secured a $374,500 bid for the project on Monday.

The elementary school that has been closed for almost 14 years, the district’s transportation building and the concession and restroom building used for the Cary-Grove Youth Baseball & Softball are all scheduled to be demolished before June 1, according to district documents. Concrete pavement, stair ramps and playground equipment and surfaces will also be removed.

Maplewood School, located at 340 W. Krenz Ave., will be turned into a vacant grassy lot. The new Maplewood Transportation Center, which will be built on adjacent property, is set to include parking spaces for 40 school buses, a fuel pump, car parking and a building to house transportation staff.

The end of Maplewood School also marks the end of a period of fraught negotiations with the village of Cary, which had hoped the school property would be redeveloped and that District 26′s transportation center would be located elsewhere.

Children practice on a ball field at Maplewood Elementary School on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2023. Members of the Cary School District 26 Board of Education voted on a transportation project site design concept and project timeline that paves the way for Maplewood Elementary School to be tore down and the construction of new and larger transportation center.

The contractors will take about 60 days to complete the demolition, said principal architect Greg Stahler from Cashman Stahler Group, which works for the district.

School board members narrowly approved the bid for the demolition work from contractor Fowler Enterprises in a 4-3 vote Monday evening. Elgin-based Fowler Enterprises bid the lowest of six proposals that ranged from $374,500 to $851,000.

Stahler considered the two lowest bidders and ultimately recommended Fowler Enterprises. Stahler said his firm worked with the contractors before on a public building demolition in Barrington.

“In the state of Illinois, we are obligated to go with the lowest responsible bidder,” District 26 Director of Finance and Operations David Shepherd said. “There’s not a whole lot of flexibility there and the bar for a non-responsive bid is fairly high.”

Fowler Enterprises will not be using sub-contractors in the demolition, Stahler said. The contractor will need to follow state prevailing wage laws, he said.

Board member Melinda Hartman, who voted yes on the bid, said she trusts the people employed by the district to make the right recommendation.

“I want everyone to understand that the reason for my voting is because my position, I believe, is oversight and to rely on the information that I get from people who have done the bidding,” she said.

A plan for construction of the new transportation center is not yet complete, as the district is working with the village to ensure the plan is compliant with zoning regulations, according to district documents. Bidding for the center’s construction could happen in February or March, according to the district’s project schedule.

The village of Cary proposed multiple scenarios to assist with the redevelopment of the property, which sits in the village’s downtown TIF that was created in August. Proposals included an up-front purchase of $2.75 million and a transfer agreement in hopes to take control and redevelop the property. Incentives to take the offer included TIF revenues to the district and limiting up-front costs.

The district declined all offers, citing reasons including the potential future need of property, wanting to stay on the construction schedule and the impact of the TIF on the school district’s finances, District 26 Superintendent Brandon White said in an email to the village of Cary on Oct. 31.

Some collaboration between the district and the village may still happen, as the village hopes to increase downtown accessibility with a Maplewood Access Road Extension project.

“Kindly note, however, that the board remains willing to collaborate with the village on future projects, specifically including the village’s desire to acquire land on the Maplewood property for road purposes,” White said in an email to the village.

Construction on the Maplewood property also forces the Cary-Grove Youth Baseball & Softball to find a temporary new home. The organization plans on renting fields more frequently, especially at Lions Park in Cary, youth league President Bob Johnson said.

The baseball organization, which supports about 500 kids who are 5 to 18 years old, already removed a league storage shed at Maplewood in preparation for the demolition; it will be rebuild at the Norge Ski Club in Fox River Grove, Johnson said.