The future of the Roos building may get even more complicated if the District 91 Board of Education sticks to the sentiments expressed at their meeting on July 14.
“We got our referendum passed for educational purposes. We have a building,” said board member Catherine Denham at the meeting. In an article in last week’s Forest Park Review, Mayor Anthony Calderone told the paper that he had considered the possibility of turning the Roos building into a multi-use governmental center, with offices for the village, the park district and the school district under one roof.
Dist. 91 Superintendent Dr. Randolph Tinder said the board would be willing to listen to the Mayor’s ideas, but acknowledged that, based on the information currently available, board members do not seem particularly interested in moving.
Calderone emphasized that splitting the Roos building between the three entities is only one of several options, and that the school board’s participation would not necessarily be needed.
“Initially, the idea was for the park district by themselves … all these other speculations are just backup plans,” he said.
Calderone said that if the park district is unable to handle the cost of taking over the building on its own, village hall would consider moving in as well. Only if the two agencies are still unable to foot the bill would the school district come into the picture.
Commissioner Patrick Doolin, however, said that without the school district’s participation, the project would not be possible.
“The park district would really in effect be a minor player in this. The village and the school district would be the two major workhorses in this, and if one of the workhorses isn’t pulling, it wouldn’t work,” he said.
Doolin added that the renovations necessary to turn the property into a state-of-the-art governmental center could cost “tens of millions” in addition to the cost of acquiring the property.
He said the village and park district coming up with that kind of money on their own would be unrealistic considering the village is still in possession of the $3.6 million Altenheim property.
“We can’t absorb another Altenheim,” he said.
An appraisal of the property at 7329 W. Harrison St. where the empty Roos building stands should be complete in the coming days. The cost of the appraisal was split between the village and the park district.
Park District Director Dave Novack said he is waiting to meet with the village board and discuss the appraisal before determining the park district’s level of interest in the property.
Owned by the Armitage Capital Corporation, the Roos building is currently slated to be turned into condominiums. The village council voted 3-2 last September to change the property to planned unit development (PUD) status, bringing the current price tag for the property to $3.75 million.
The PUD is set to expire on Sept. 27.
Doolin said he would prefer that the property be appraised as an industrial property rather than a PUD. “I think the PUD over-inflates the value on that parcel, and upon expiration of the PUD the price would go down significantly … there is no interest on my part in talking to the developer at $3.75 million,” he said.
School board member Steve Johnsen agreed. “Right now, it’s only attractive to condos and real estate developers”maybe when [the price] drops, it will be more attractive,” he said at the meeting.
Mayor Calderone said last week that it was too early to comment on whether the property would be appraised as a PUD or whether the price would drop if the PUD were to expire.
Even if the price were to drop, many school board members expressed reluctance to move out of their current headquarters at 424 Desplaines Ave.
“I don’t think this facility is lacking in any way,” said Johnsen at the meeting, responding to a Forest Park Review editorial that called the building “serviceable at best.”
“It’s the best office I’ve had in 22 years as a superintendent,” added Tinder.
Calderone agreed that there is nothing wrong with the school board’s current office. “If this was to move forward into a sort of joint governmental civic center, I think that would be the motivation for them to consider moving. I’m certain that they don’t need to move,” he said.