New design, location proposed for Park Ridge 9/11 memorial

By Jennifer Johnson Park Ridge Sun Times

During a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Park Ridge police officers place a flag over a steel beam from the World Trade Center. File photo

During a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Park Ridge police officers place a flag over a steel beam from the World Trade Center. File photo

A new design for Park Ridge’s mothballed 9/11 memorial is under consideration after an earlier plan endorsed by the Park Ridge Art Commission languished for more than one year.

A rough sketch of the design, centered around a 200-pound steel beam from the World Trade Center, was created by volunteer and Park Ridge architect Ralph Cincinelli. Shared with the Park Ridge City Council on May 12, the design shows the beam perched on a raised platform and surrounded by a low brick perimeter wall in front of the Park Ridge Police Department’s evidence storage building at 229 Courtland Ave. At night, the piece could be illuminated by lights and there is an option for citizens to buy engraved paver bricks that would be placed around the memorial.

The council authorized City Manager Shawn Hamilton to take the new design to the city’s Appearance Commission for input and approval before any work begins.“It is a more simple, reflective design,” Hamilton said of the new plan for the memorial.

Park Ridge Fire Department Battalion Chief Tim Norton, who chaired a committee that worked to secure the World Trade Center piece from the New York and New Jersey Port Authority in 2009, said he is also happy with the latest design.

“When this whole project first started, the original committee was very hopeful that the outcome of this whole process would be a simple and respectful memorial — and I believe this design really accomplishes both of those aspects very nicely,” Norton told the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate.

The fire department received the World Trade Center artifact in 2011.

“We’ve had it for going on three years. Personally, I really wish it hadn’t taken this long,” Norton said.

The committee, which is expected to reconvene to work on the project so that it can be completed in time for a September 11, 2014 dedication, stepped back from sharing input on the memorial’s design as the City Council handed the project over to the Public Art Commission and the concept became more elaborate as architects came in to present proposals.

The design chosen by the Art Commission, created free of charge by an Evanston architectural firm, called for the memorial to be located in front of the fire station at Cumberland and Devon Avenues, with the piece encased in glass and surrounded by a wall of varying heights. At the time it was presented to the Park Ridge Art Commission in 2012, the estimated cost of the memorial topped $300,000.

“The biggest concern we heard with the last rendering was the cost,” Hamilton said.

No estimates for this latest design were shared, but Norton said it will need to be funded through donations of money, time and materials.

Hamilton said he believes there are a number of citizens eager to volunteer to get the memorial off the ground.

“We’re truly going to make this a community project through a lot of volunteer hours, though lot of volunteer sweat,” he said.

It was members of city staff who pointed to the evidence storage building or City Hall property as the best locations for the memorial, Hamilton told the council. If established on the evidence building property, the memorial would stand where there is currently a grassy area between the sidewalk and the parking lot facing Courtland.

Some Park Ridge Fire Department employees had been unhappy with the earlier location selected because of the proposed size of the memorial, lack of parking and the close proximity to two busy streets where accidents involving vehicles driving up on lawns have occurred.

Norton, as well as 2nd Ward Ald. Nicholas Milissis, who sought last year to have the memorial concept revived, both said they believe the evidence building or City Hall property are good locales for the piece. But Park Ridge resident Joan Sandrik slammed the evidence building proposal during the May 12 City Council meeting, calling the brick structure “the most unattractive building in town.” Placing a memorial there to honor people who have lost their lives, she added, “is a slap in the face.”

“Basically, it’s in the parking lot,” she said. “I just find that unacceptable. I think if you want to do it on either corner of City Hall that would be nice. Another option would be Cumberland Park.”

Milissis said putting the piece on park district property would require approval from the Park Board, which would drag out the project further.

“I personally want to see it on city land,” he said.

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