Cafe next up for Allerton master plan

Allerton Park & Retreat Center staff have started biting off several projects listed in a master plan that was adopted in 2016. Those include trail access improvements, installation of a composting toilet at a trail head, restoration of the bulb garden, and cleaning up of the Sea Maiden sculptures in the formal gardens?

Up next? Coffee.

“We see that a cafe and coffee shop would help with visitors, and also feed our lodgers in the mansion. A lot of times people get up and want a specialized coffee and we don’t have that,” Allerton Associate Director Derek Peterson told Monticello Chamber of Commerce members on April 20.

A wall is being taken out of an office in the Visitor’s Center to accommodate the cafe/coffee shop, which could be open by this fall. Peterson said it would not be open during all park hours, but during the busiest days and months at the park.

Park officials are also soliciting donors to help fund a more accessible entrance to the mansion/retreat center.

“We’ve identified our mansion area is not easy to get to, and our audience is becoming less and less mobile,” he said. Patrons currently need to traverse a steeply inclined walk to get from the main parking lot to the historic Allerton Mansion, and there is no public driveway access from Old Timber Drive to the former home of Robert Allerton, now owned by the University of Illinois.

That will change when funds are procured, said Peterson.

“To draw people into the mansion we will replicate the historic carriage drive that connects the parking lot to the pedestrian walkway (which runs from Old Timber to the mansion),” he said. A grand entry will also allow for people to be dropped off at a circle drive to be constructed near the mansion’s entry. There will also be a small parking area just off the circle drive.

One potential project that has been shelved for now is a semi-permanent tent structure that would have expanded the capacity of the mansion/retreat center.

“We ran across some code issues that we have to address, which is fine,” said Peterson, which include the need for a fire suppression system for the tent structure. “This gives us a chance to address those before we go on, so that’s been put on hold until a further date.”

Peterson said park officials pictured a semi-permanent tent that could be used year-round, but state codes would classify it as a temporary structure, limiting it to 180 days per year – which would decrease the revenue it could generate.

He added, however, that such projects are needed in order for the park to become self-sustaining.

“We would like to see increased capacity in the retreat center. We feel that could really grow our revenue,” said Peterson, pointing out that weddings already provide 34 percent of the facility’s revenue.

Donations and trusts are on the rise, as more than $1million have been secured over the past two years. That exceeds what had been received from donation to the park from a period covering 1946 through 2015.


 


 

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