Architect selected for Highland Park’s Rosewood beach project
Updated: December 4, 2011 10:34AM
Chicago-based David Woodhouse Architects was selected as the winner of the Park District of Highland Park’s Rosewood Beach design competition last week for its unique proposal that blends a series of small buildings into the lakefront setting.
Three finalists presented beach house proposals to the Rosewood Beach advisory task force Oct. 10, but Woodhouse’s experience working in urban and sensitive areas set them apart, task force chair David Fairman told the Park Board.
“What we are trying to address here is the challenge of the site,” Fairman explained. “Rosewood Beach, the only public swimming beach in Highland Park, is fairly narrow and (there isn’t) a lot of room abutting a sensitive bluff and beautiful park above.”
Woodhouse’s winning conceptual design, Fairman said, nearly makes the beach house appear invisible from the park above and not monumental lakeside. The series of buildings will house bathrooms, locker rooms, a lifeguard station, concession stand and a small interpretive center for park programming.
“What they proposed is to kind of break that all up,” Fairman explained. “It’s not just one solid massive building, but several in sort of a nice, logical sequence that makes sure we have (the desired functional uses for patrons at the beach).”
The Park Board unanimously supported the task force’s recommendation Oct. 27 and staff was directed to negotiate a contract with Woodhouse.
After a deal is in place, the task force will meet with the Woodhouse design team to further develop the proposal. That design will be presented to the public for more input before a final plan will appear before the Park Board.
The district did not release Woodhouse’s conceptual drawings Oct. 27. A public meeting date to unveil the official concept is expected to be announced by Nov. 18. At least two additional public discussions will be scheduled as well.
“The community will be surprised that they really thought out of the box,” said Park Board Commissioner Lori Flores Weisskopf, who served on the Rosewood task force. “They really surprised us yet underwhelmed us by (providing a) feeling like your inside but outside at the very same time.”
After community input is provided, the Park Board will conduct a final review and is expected to provide approval in the spring.
“It is important that the community realizes this is only the first step – this is the initial concept, not a final design,” added Executive Director Liza McElroy. “And, we are most proud of the fact that the improvements to the beach will come at no additional cost or tax levy to our resident taxpayers.”
The design competition route was initiated after Ravinia neighborhood residents and the city’s Design Review Commission balked at the district’s original $2.9 million, 3,500-square-foot proposed bathhouse and pavilion.
“What we wanted to avoid was the concept of a big building on the beach, which is clearly unacceptable to the neighborhood and to many residents,” Fairman said. “And we didn’t want to do anything that would harm the bluff.”
Located off of Roger Williams Avenue, Rosewood Beach has been without proper user-facilities since the old beach house was demolished in 2006.
Final site plans also will feature a new playground on the beach, an improved ravine trail, sand volleyball and new picnic areas. The beachfront will meet all ADA requirements.
“This concept should please the residents because it has a wonderful simplicity that complements the natural beauty of the beach,” commissioner Elaine Waxman concluded. “Providing new recreational and educational opportunities there would certainly be a benefit to the community.”