DECATUR – Long-awaited renovations to the Beach House restaurant are slated for completion by early summer.
Restaurant owner Todd Mason said the project is targeted to wrap up by June 1, but Decatur Park District Executive Director Bill Clevenger cautioned that the progress will be very weather dependent.
The project will focus on the restaurant's exterior, including the foundation and aging deck, and will add ramps that are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Mason said the public could expect to see an outdoor dining and bar area with space for entertainment.
“In the big picture, the most exciting thing is that this is just one step towards the greater redevelopment of the entire lakefront,” Mason said. “The forward movement of this entire plan is so important to this community.”
The park district's board of commissioners awarded a $760,000 contract for the work to CAD Construction in October 2013, with the understanding that Mason, the park district and the city of Decatur would split the cost of the work.
However, the end of 2013 was a rough time for the city's finances, with then-City Manager Ryan McCrady forced to eliminate 20 positions by the beginning of 2014 to balance the budget.
Ultimately, the Decatur City Council did not vote to contribute to the project until December of the following year. Officials specified that the city's portion of the money would pay for accessibility needs and improvements to the public area on the lower level.
The park district owns the Great Depression-era building that houses the restaurant. Mason owns the business.
Construction is expected to be staged in such a way that the restaurant will remain open throughout, Mason said.
Clevenger said the park district also plans to spend roughly $50,000 this year to renovate the Beach House restrooms, which also serve as public restrooms for lakefront users. That project is separate from the renovations to the exterior, he said.
The park district will have its hands full this summer with construction in Nelson Park, as it will also begin work on batting cages, a ropes course and playground near the Overlook Adventure Miniature Golf course; restrooms and a pavilion near the dog park; road work near Pavilion No. 2; and a large amphitheater along the shoreline.
“We always talked about, 'We don't want this (lakefront) plan to be on the shelf,' and it's not,” Clevenger said.