MWRD Discusses New Office Space Options, But May Dock Plans Due to Grim Budget Projections

July 28, 2010

On June 17, 2010 the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District held a study session to discuss office space options for the District’s administrative staff. Steve Weiss, owner of Weiss Architects LLC, presented a report on main office strategies that was commissioned by the District. Mr. Weiss explained that the District is projecting a 15% increase in office staff by 2013. As a result, the MWRD may require approximately 20% more office space to accommodate the new staff.[1] The report presented a number of office space options available to the District to accommodate this increase in work force.

Mr. Weiss began by discussing the MWRD’s current office space situation.  He explained that the MWRD’s administrative employees work out of two separate buildings: 1) the building located at 100 E. Erie Street in Chicago owned by the District, and 2) floors of a building located at 111 E Erie Street in Chicago. Mr. Weiss claimed that this set-up leads to inefficiencies, especially when employees in the two offices need to communicate with one another.

Next, Mr. Weiss discussed short-term and long-term strategies for dealing with the District’s office space needs. Within the next year, Mr. Weiss suggested that the MWRD acquire rental property near the preexisting District buildings on the 100 block of East Erie. While this would meet the immediate space needs of the District, Mr. Weiss estimated that this short-term option would cost $4.3 million over five years.  He added that this solution would not solve the long-term space needs identified by the District.

Beyond the five-year span of the short-term plan, Mr. Weiss presented four long-term options:

  1. Relocate the main office building to a purpose-built new building on MWRD owned property;
  2. Move all of the MWRD administrative offices to 111 E Erie;
  3. Rebuild a new main office building at 100 E Erie; or
  4. Obtain or build a new main office building somewhere else.

While Mr. Weiss did not detail any projected costs associated with any of the long-term options, his firm did project that it would take 46-66 months for any of the long-term solutions to be completed. Even if construction on the long-term option was commenced immediately and completed in 46 months, it would not be finished in time to meet the 15% projected increase of personnel by 2013. 

In the weeks following this presentation of office space strategies, the District held another study session to discuss its FY2011 budget projections. MWRD Board President O’Brien expressed his concerns about expanding or relocating office space due to the projected budgetary pressures, which may require a reduction in staffing levels. President O’Brien proposed that the Board table the idea of expanding or relocating its office space until the District has examined its existing personnel expenditures and determined whether staffing reductions will be necessary in the coming year.

[1] From the PowerPoint presented and distributed by Steve Weiss of Weiss Architects LLC at the MWRD Study Session held on June 17, 2010.