Let's keep this simple. A study conducted by the Dewberry Group from Elgin, IL placed the cost of a “historical restoration” of the Tabernacle at almost $1,3000,000.
We have never thought spending this amount of money was necessary but even if we did, that amount did not have to be spent all at once and could have been done over the years. The Tabernacle basically needs a roof, some boards, and paint. In our opinion, this inflated estimate from Dewberry was produced by a Chicago company that gave the Park District a “pie in the sky”, “if you want all the bells and whistle’s” kind of estimate.
Fehr Graham Engineering of Rockford has done a structural analysis of the Tabernacle and found it in great shape for its age. The building has a steel frame, very different from most barn construction. It does need replacement of the roof, some wood siding, and several concrete footings. All for the Fehr Graham's estimate of only $147,000.
WHAT THE SAVE THE TABERNACLE GROUP COULD DO: We have a new roof estimate of $48,904.00. That alone is $13K less than Fehr Graham's estimate. Fehr Graham had a 20K cushion in their estimate. We as a non-profit group would be looking for in-kind donations for building materials to bring down these costs as much as possible.
We have a huge donation of labor to replace the roof that just came in last week. This is so huge. We also have dozens of skilled people that have already volunteered to spend their time helping with repairs and paint. We have farmer friends with steam cleaners and lifts. We have people experienced in fundraising. This building is pretty basic. It doesn't have insulation. The walls are made of wood with wooden doors all around the outside. There's no question we would be able to have the building open by this summer. However, the Commissioners won’t even discuss our offers.
MARKETING: We recently received an offer by Marilyn Smit, owner of one of the top marketing companies in our city to help market the Tabernacle. Wow. We are ecstatic with this offer.
Why was the building closed in 2012? It's been said there have been low usage numbers at Oakdale. It's our firm belief that once the full-time naturalist retired, Oakdale was out of sight and out of mind. Very little money has been spent there other than maybe for studies and there's been extremely little marketing. The Board said it's just too far away but we clocked it and it's a bit under 3 miles south of town. It's just a tad past the airport. Signage has been a big problem and the Park District has never addressed it. If you look at back issues of the Park magazine, little space was ever been given describing Oakdale. The Tabernacle has been closed since 2012 and animals were allowed to move in. This doesn't have to be.
THE OSLAD GRANT: The Park District was recently awarded a $400,000 OSLAD (Open Space and Land Acquisition and Development Grant). The application spells out what the Park District is planning to do with this grant that will be matched for a total of $800,000. The application specifies a new mid size shelter with new bathrooms to be built near the location of the old Lodge, some new play equipment, trail signage, a bridge replacement, picnic tables and grills. The Tabernacle would benefit from all of these additions and would not be in the way.
THE FUTURE: It was recently brought to our attention that when the new library was built, there was great discussion about if meeting rooms were going to be necessary. What a mistake it would have been to not include them. Things change over time.
We know young couples are looking for alternatives to have their wedding celebrations in unique venues and not go $20 -30K or more in debt. The Tabernacle could be a perfect alternative to help the young people in our community with that goal. It's not unusual at all for weddings to take place in backyards, fields, and barns where the caterers work out of their trucks.
The current restrooms at Oakdale are actually not terrible. They have flush toilets and running water and I complare them to the restrooms at the County Fair. Besides in the new OSLAD grant the Park District is building new restrooms attached to the new shelter they are building.
There was some worry about where Brides could dress and the solution would be to use the Mogul Building (the Two Story classroom). It has lots of space and a restroom. Its better than many places they currently use.
There are also talking points that leaving the floor of the Tabernacle that has a slope towards the stage would exclude a handicapped person from being inside or using the Tabernacle. We do not believe this is the case. There is no step as you enter the building. The current doorway might need to be widened and the threshold smoothed but remember this building has at least 6 doors that slide wide open like a barn. A person in a wheelchair could easily enter the building. The floor has a 4 - 6% slope according to Fehr Graham and its also more level around the outside walls. I can't tell you how much but I distinctly remember, when I was inside, thinking you could easily set up tables for a reception around the back of the room without any problems.
It's important to remember that theatres like Janet Lloyd, the Lindo, the Masonic have specific places inside them that allow wheelchairs to easily get to. "Being accessible" doesn't mean a person in a wheelchair can access everywhere inside. It would be nice in the future, to level out the floor but it isn't something that needs to be done immediately.
WHAT COULD WE DO THERE: There's so many uses for Oakdale and the Tabernacle if we cared. Here's just a few off the top of our heads: Music events, concerts, theatrical plays, Civil War or World War II encampments, large family reunions and events, craft fairs, corportate outings, weddings, home shows, farmers markets, church group meetings, nature programs, festivals, Earth Day, luminary walks, summer solstice celebrations, storytelling retreats, gathering place for the elderly coming from area nursing homes with strolls through nature, 4-H and Scout events, pet fairs and dog shows. These suggestions are just a start. One person even suggested aerial ballet or yoga, wow.
The Save the Tabernacle group has made two written proposals to the Park District. If you would like to see these proposals, please email a request to the group. As of February 9th, the Park District has not even responded with a followup letter. The rumor is they don't think we can do raise the money and do the work. What would they lose by giving us even a trial time period?