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Sunset Woods Park Playground Renovation & Master Planning

Sunset Woods Park serves as Highland Park’s central park, offering active and passive recreation, gathering areas, and connections to the downtown. The Park District Board has approved a planning project for the renovation of the park’s iconic Rocket Ship playground and Titanic Tides tot lot located on the western edge of the park.  The Park Board also approved development of a master plan for the entire park, ensuring that the playground renovation fits into a modern vision of Sunset Woods and the City Downtown District. 

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Project Background

On July 28, 2020, the Park District Board of Commissioners approved design services to renovate the Sunset Woods Park’s iconic Rocket Ship playground and Titanic Tides tot lot located on the western edge of the park. The Park District is committed to taking care of park properties and is now proceeding with the design phase of replacing the playground equipment, which is approaching its useful life. The planning project kicks-off this summer.

Sunset Woods Park serves as Highland Park’s central park, offering active and passive recreation, gathering areas, and connections to the downtown. The Park Board is also taking advantage of playground design services by approving design services to develop a site master plan for the entire park. This plan will ensure that the playground renovation fits into a modern vision of Sunset Woods Park for the whole community to enjoy. This site master plan was a recommendation in the Park District’s GreenPrint 2024 comprehensive plan.

Construction of the new playground and tot lot is anticipated to occur in 2021. All other park improvements identified in the Sunset Park master plan will be considered for future years.

In keeping with our community engagement tradition, an essential aspect of the Sunset Woods project planning process will be a collaboration with residents. Over the next few months, community members will have a variety of opportunities to provide their input on the playground design and the vision for Sunset Woods. In keeping with COVID-19 DCEO guidelines, online, virtual, and in-person engagement opportunities will be available to all residents.


Project Updates

7/28/2021

The playground renovation construction is set to start mid-August.

At the July 27 Board Meeting, the Park Board approved the Sunset Woods Park Playground Renovation construction contracts. Construction is set to begin mid-August for the grand opening in Spring 2022 (weather dependent). Check out the renderings of the new playground below.

2-5 Age Group Play Area — Nature Theme

5-12 Age Group Play Area — Rocketship/Space Theme

Rocketship Play Structure

Playground Seating Plaza

7/23/2021

On July 10th, the Park District activated Sunset Woods Park for Unplug Illinois Day. The Planning Department joined the event as an opportunity to collect feedback for the Master Plan. We heard from neighbors and park users and continue to welcome feedback on the plan. Click the link below to see the updated Master Plan.

The Park District has been busy finalizing the playground renovation plans based on feedback from the community. Click on the link below to see updated playground plans. Bids for the construction of the playground were received on July 8th and will be presented to the Park Board on July 27th for award. The construction is expected to begin August 2021.

2/26/2021

On February 23rd the Park Board approved a proposal to proceed with final design and construction services for the playground renovation project. During this phase of the project, design consultants will use the  playground concept plans developed with input from the community to advance the playground plans for construction. The designs developed through the final design phase will be bid for construction late-spring 2021.

The project team continues to finalize the master plan based on community input.  Once approved, the final master plan will guide future development.  The project team expects to present a final master plan document to the Park Board in the coming months.

2/16/2021

The project team has refined the plans based on your feedback.  Now is your opportunity to review the updated plans and provide additional comments.  Click on the box below to get started.  We are accepting comments on the project through Thursday, February 18.  If you have additional questions and comments, please email aschwartz@pdhp.org.

1/27/2021

Thank you to the community members who took the time to provide valuable input on the Sunset Woods Park playground concept plan and park master plan!

We heard:

  • That many were not supportive of the proposed North Parking Lot
  • There is a high interest in a splash pad and adult fitness
  • The local tennis community values the clay courts and the bank of asphalt courts

The project team is working on refining the plan. Some updates you’ll see in the plan are:

  • Removal of the parking lot near the north pavilion
  • Retaining the clay courts and the asphalt courts
  • A splash pad near the playground

The refined master plan will be shared with the community in February.

Click here to review the survey results.

Playground
The renovation of the playground is scheduled to start this summer. A final concept for the playground will be presented to the Park Board for approval in February.

Park Master Plan
The final park master plan recommendations are not scheduled but will guide future development.

1/11/2021

Between December 9th and December 17th a survey was promoted to collect comments on the preliminary illustrative concept plans. The project team has aggregated the survey results, to review the results click the link below. The results from the survey and the comments received will be used to further refine the plans. The community will be given another opportunity in February to view and comment on the final designs.

12/22/2020

Thank you to everyone that participated in the survey. We heard from over 350 respondents. The project team is reviewing the results and will be sharing the highlights in the next few weeks. The results from the survey and the comments received will be used to further refine the plans. The revised plans will be shared with the community in February 2021.

12/10/2020

The preliminary concept plans are posted on the website and the virtual community meeting platform is available. Walk through a self-guided presentation to see the preliminary concept plans and then take the survey to share your comments. The survey will be open through December 17th.

12/8/2020

The Sunset Woods Park Playground Renovation and Master Plan project update will be presented tonight at the December 8th Park Board meeting. The presentation will include illustrative concepts developed based on community input.

The design team is now looking for feedback on these initial concepts. Your feedback will be invaluable as the team refines the plans to be presented to the Park Board in February 2021.

The survey will be open December 9th through December 17th.

Click here for a brief self-guided presentation and for a link to the survey.

11/18/20

The Sunset Woods Park Playground Renovation and Master Plan presentation scheduled for the November 17 Park Board Meeting and an online survey requesting community feedback expected to start on November 19 have been postponed. Due to COVID-19 emergency orders issued by Governor Pritzker and the City of Highland Park, the Park District had to refocus its attention for the November 17 Board Meeting. The project team will schedule the Sunset Woods Park Playground Renovation and Master Plan project presentation to the Park Board for a later date. The online survey will open for community comment following the Park Board presentation. The Park District will continue to post project updates on the website and will announce the adjusted timeline when available.

11-6-2020

The project team targeted presenting the Sunset Woods Park Playground Renovation and Master Plan Project draft concept plans to the Park Board on Nov 10. The presentation has been rescheduled to Nov 17 to provide the team with additional time to refine the plans.

The draft plans will include illustrations based on the feedback we heard from the community, staff, and board. These initial drafts will facilitate discussion and collect input to refine further the concept plan that will serve as the foundation for final design; therefore, the clarity of these plans is of utmost importance. With additional design time, the project team is refining the concept drafts and coordinating with playground manufacturers to develop images to illustrate the play equipment’s conceptual vision.

10-23-2020:

Thank you again for your interest in the Sunset Woods Park Playground and Master Plan project. The project team was excited to share the plans with the community at the end of this month; however, we have adjusted the schedule to allow for more design time.

Park District staff are working closely with Hitchcock Design Group to ensure that the initial plans follow the community, staff, and Park Board feedback. After further discussion with Hitchcock Design Group, the project team determined it was best to adjust the schedule to allow for more time to develop the initial plans.

Following the updated schedule, Hitchcock Design Group will present the plans at the November 10 public Park Board Meeting. Following the meeting, the plans will be available for public comment.

9-18-2020:

Over the past few weeks, we have heard from many of you about your vision for Sunset Woods Playground and Park. Just over 300 people participated in a vision survey online, we spoke with participants at the open house, and patrons using the parks. We heard some creative ideas including interest in ziplines, play structures with height, and hill play. Beyond the playground, we heard an interest in park elements such as a splash pad, a wheel friendly plaza, and fitness opportunities. The project team is busy reviewing your feedback to finalize a project program that will guide the initial schematic plans for the playground and master plan. These plans are expected to be presented to the community at the end of October. At that time, there will be opportunities to collaborate with the Project Team on the design and share your feedback. In the meantime, continue to send ideas and comments either by email to planning@pdhp.org or on the online comment card.

8-28-2020:

On Wednesday The Park District hosted a Community Open House at the large open air pavilion east of the playgrounds at Sunset Woods Park. Around twenty people stopped by and shared their input and participated in the visioning exercise presented by Hitchcock Design Group. Participants were asked to place two dots on images that best reflected their vision of the Playground and two more dots on images reflecting their vision of the park. Online and virtual opportunities to participate in the design effort are now available on the website.  The information collected during the input phase will be used to develop the initial schematic plans. In October, residents will have an opportunity to provide feedback on the initial schematic plans.

Participants at the 1st Sunset Woods Park Community Open House

8-13-2020:

We’d like to hear your thoughts and ideas on potential future development at the park as well as the playground renovation project.The first Community Open House has been scheduled for August 26th, 2020 from 430pm – 630pm at Sunset Woods Park, Large Pavilion (located in the central section of the park near the four playground areas). Stop by to share your vision for Sunset Woods Park.  The project planning staff will be available to answer your questions and collect your feedback.   Visuals and comment cards will be available. The event will be arranged for proper social distancing. Participants are required to wear face masks.

This will be the first of a series of community input opportunities.

 


Project Schedule

 

Thank you for your input! 

Between Aug 2020 and Feb 2021  over 350 community members participated in the Sunset Woods Park Playground and Master Plan concept planning effort.

Input Phase (Aug 2020 – Oct 2020)*

  • During the Fall of 2020 community members shared their vision for Sunset Woods Park and playground. These ideas informed the preliminary draft concept plans.

Schematic Design Phase (Oct 2020 – Feb 2021)*

  • The ideas gathered in the Fall of 2020 directly informed the preliminary draft concept plans. 
  • Between December 9th and December 17th a survey was promoted to collect comments on those preliminary illustrative concept plans. Over 300 communtiy members participated in the survey.
  • The community’s feedback was used to refine the plans further.

*Following COVID-19 DCEO guidelines, online, virtual, and in-person engagement opportunities were made available to community members throughout the Input and Schematic Design Phases.

 

Next Steps:

On February 23rd the Park Board approved a proposal to proceed with final design and construction services for the playground renovation project. During this phase of the project, design consultants will use the playground concept plans developed with input from the community to advance the playground plans for construction. The designs developed through the final design phase will be bid for construction summer 2021.

The project team continues to finalize the master plan based on community input and continues to welcome comments and questions. Once approved, the final master plan will guide future development.

For more information on the overall project schedule click here.

If you have additional comments, please email aschwartz@pdhp.org.

If you would like to receive project updates, please complete the Contact Us Form.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Why is the Park District embarking on this project now?

The playground equipment is aging and in need of replacement. Planning for the playground will take approximately four months. Beginning the design for the playground now puts the Park District in the position to break ground in 2021.

The Park Board decided to include the master planning of the park to ensure that the playground renovation fits into a modern vision for- Sunset Woods. Recommendations determined through the master planning process are neither funded nor scheduled.

What is the Project Timeline?

There are three phases to the project:

  • Phase 1: Preliminary Design
  • Phase 2: Playground Final Design
  • Phase 3: Playground Construction

Phase 1: Preliminary Design (Fall/Winter 2020 – January 2021)

The Preliminary Design phase has three steps:

  • Step 1. Input
  • Step 2. Review
  • Step 3. Final Concept

Step 1: Input
The project team will collect input from the community on their vision for an updated playground and park.
Step 2: Review
The design firm will take the community feedback and develop an initial concept plan draft to illustrate the feedback that was gathered during Step 1.
Step 3: Final Concept
The project team will gather feedback on the initial draft concept plan. That feedback will be used to refine a final concept plan.

The concept master plan will serve as a tool to guide future capital planning and support funding opportunities.

The playground concept plan developed in Phase 1 will serve as the foundation for Phase 2 playground final design.

Phase 2: Playground Final Design (Early 2021- Spring 2021)
The design team will develop detailed plans for construction. These plans will detail colors, materials, textures, dimensions, and play pieces.

Phase 3: Playground Construction (Summer – Fall 2021)
The new playground will be constructed. Once construction is completed, the new playground will be open to the community.

What is a concept plan?

A concept plan illustrates a broad vision to garner support and consensus before proceeding into final design phases. Concept plans are typically less detailed than a final design. In this case, specific elements, colors, textures, materials will be determined in final design.

What is a master plan?

A master plan is a comprehensive plan with long-range goals. A Sunset Woods Park Master Plan will consider the entire Park, connectivity, recreation amenities, and how these amenities serve the Highland Park community and how the Park fits into the Downtown. The final master plan will provide a layout to guide future development and improvements at the park. The recommendations in the master plan will be developed in collaboration with the community. See the participate in the vision tab to see opportunities to participate in the planning.

How will the master plan be used?

The master plan will inform future development at the park. Projects recommended in the master plan will be considered during future year budgeting. With the plan, the Park District can begin to apply for funding opportunities such as the Open Space and Land Acquisition and Development Grant Program offered by the State of Illinois.

What is the difference between the playground project and the master plan?

The playground renovation project’s objective is to replace two of the playgrounds at Sunset Woods, the Rocket Ship playground, and Titanic Tides Tot Lot. The master plan aims to evaluate the park holistically and recommend improvements to the park to serve the community better. The playground -construction is scheduled for 2021.  The master plan project recommendations are currently unbudgeted.

Can I sign up to get periodic project updates?

Yes, please fill out the contact us form or email aschwartz@pdhp.org and include your name and email address.

When will the playground be renovated?

Renovation of the playground is expected to break ground in Spring 2021.

When will the playground be closed to the public?

The playground will be closed during construction, which is scheduled to begin in August 2021. Construction will continue through end of the year 2021 and, depending on weather, the playground may continue to remain closed for construction through Spring 2022. The Tree Adventure Playground (east of the playgrounds under construction) will remain open through construction.

Which playgrounds are going to be renovated?

The Titanic Tides Tot Lot and the 21st Century Playground are located on the eastern edge of the park.

Is the Park District taking away any elements in the park as part of this project?

No. The playground project will replace a tot lot and an elementary playground with new equipment for both age groups.

The Master Plan may recommend removal or replacement of amenities within the park, but at this time the District has no plans to remove any amenities at the park.

Over 300 community members shared their feedback on the Sunset Woods Park Playground and Master Plan concept designs. The District and design consultant, have since refined those plans to reflect the comments received.

2-5 Age Group Play Area — Nature Theme

5-12 Age Group Play Area — Rocketship/Space Theme

New Rocketship Play Structure

Playground Seating Plaza

The Park Board of Commissioners approved the construction contracts on July 27th, 2021. Construction is set to start mid-August. Construction updates will be posted on the project website. Completion is targeted for end-of-year 2021 but is weather dependent and may continue through Spring 2022.

 

The Park District continues to finalize the master plan and expects to return to the Board and public in the Fall 2021.

If you have  questions or comments please email aschwartz@pdhp.org,

 

 

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