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Hinderman: Orland Park public buildings are leading new lives

Updated: October 30, 2013 6:10AM



As new buildings arise, they often replace existing ones that are deemed outdated or inadequate, occasionally with promises to keep them relevant.

I pondered that recently while traveling Ravinia Avenue and discovering that the former Orland Park police station, 14600 Ravinia Ave., seemed to have a new life. What had moved into the station? I learned that it now houses the administrative offices of the village’s recreation department.

Just south of the old police station, the Franklin Loebe Center, 14650 Ravinia Ave., was busy with students attending various programs. The building was Orland Park’s recreation center before the Sportsplex opened in 2002 at 159th Street and Wolf Road.

The building was dedicated for Loebe in 1990, recognizing his 65 years of service to the village as its treasurer before his retirement in 1993. He died in January 2004. I’m told that he enjoyed watching the busy building named in his honor from his village hall office.

In front of the Loebe building, a “Preschool” sign waved in the breeze, and a woman was selling Tootsie Rolls to raise funds for the village’s special recreation program. Popping inside, I passed the play zone, a gym structure intended for very young visitors, and met three building attendants — Jeff Bump, Melissa Ferruzza and Brendan Tinoco — who were eager to share their knowledge about the center.

As the recreation center, the building offered a preschool; art and dance classes; a gymnasium for volleyball, basketball and gymnastics; and an indoor track. The preschool remains along with the gym and the elevated track, which does not see a lot of use in hot weather because the gym does not have air conditioning.

Bump, Ferruzza and Tinoco were a wealth of knowledge about other village buildings that have been converted for new uses.

The old village hall, 14413 Beacon Ave., is now home to the Orland Park Theatre Troupe, the Comedy Improv Team and the village’s building maintenance department. It was built by volunteer firemen in 1961 and is on the site of Orland Park’s original village hall from the 1800s.

This building housed fire apparatus until the Orland Fire Protection District opened its Fire Station 1 on 151st Street in the early 1970s, a few years after the fire district was formed. Village offices were located in the Beacon Avenue building until November 1989, when the Village Center complex at 147th Street and Ravinia Avenue opened and most village departments moved into the new village hall.

Another village building with a new lease on life is the Robert Davidson Center, 14700 Park Lane, where many Orland Park children (mine included) attended preschool. It’s named for one of the village’s early building commissioners. The natural setting surrounded by Doogan Park, named for former Mayor Mel Doogan, was wonderful for after-school picnics, outdoor play and adventures.

The Davidson Center is now home to the After School Pals Program, a safe alternative for after-school activities and care for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Transportation is provided from local schools. The building’s lower level is available for meetings and private events.

Next to the Davidson Center was the Aileen S. Andrew Memorial Library, which closed with the September 2004 opening of the much larger, and impressive, library at 14921 Ravinia Ave.

The old library opened in 1976, and on the recent day I visited, had a sign on the door reading, “Building open only during program times.” Pulling on the door, I found the building open and was greeted by Gregory Bonello, who was happy to share information about its use today.

Now the village’s Cultural Arts Center, the building has a charm that comes from the creative instruction occurring within. Fencing, chess, art, dance, guitar and photography classes are taught, among others. Bonello said the large main room is available for rent to groups of up to 130.

George Brown Commons, 15045 West Ave., which is named for another former Orland Park official, was the police station until 1983. The building is now a veterans center and is used by the village veterans commission and the local posts of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars.

And I want to give a big “thank you” to the friendly and knowledgeable village employees who provided information on the history of these buildings and their current use.

So, now you know!

Juvenile diabetes training session

The Tinley Park Fire Department training center will host the Juvenile Diabetes No Limits Foundation’s Check B4U Drive training event at
9 a.m. Oct. 5. Four professional drivers and a diabetes educator will be on hand to provide the necessary training.

For more information, visit www.jdnolimits.org.



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