The process of moving the West Cook YMCA from its current Oak Park location to the Altenheim property in Forest Park seems to be nearing a transition from talk to action, with a site plan developed by the Village of Forest Park receiving a tentative thumbs-up from both parties.
“It’s not final, but its one that at least we’re comfortable with…we feel very good about the last couple meetings,” said YMCA President Scott Gaalaas. The last meeting with the YMCA board was on September 14, and another is scheduled this week.
Mayor Anthony Calderone said that he expects a plan to be presented to Village Council for preliminary discussion at a meeting in the near future. The plan, he said, was developed by Joe Antunovich, the architect who designed the Madison Commons and the Residences at the Grove.
At this point, he said, the plan is “a topical view of how the building would sit on the site” rather than a detailed rendering.
“It’s a conceptual site plan to be used as a starting point,” he said.
Though more homework is necessary before a finalized plan can be developed, he said that both the Village and the YMCA were committed to making the move happen.
“It’s more a matter of how than if,” he said.
Calderone said that price is on the backburner for the time being, though the village’s original asking price was roughly $1 million per acre.
“(The price) component comes at the end of negotiations, because price is immaterial if you cannot agree on the use of the site,” he said. “They know what it’s going to take in order to purchase that piece of property, and they’ve shown good faith by continuing dialogue with us,” he said.
The village owned site is about 11 acres total, but only 8 acres are developable.
The plan calls for the village to keep the grove area in front of the property as permanent village owned green space, Calderone said.
Though details of the plan are being kept under wraps for the time being, Calderone said that it contains provisions for about 250 parking spaces and a variety of athletic facilities.
He said that the question of whether to move the cemetery near the site will continue to be discussed, but that at this point the plan is to leave it alone.
Calderone said that the next step in the process will be getting the Village Council and the public involved and determining whether the plan meets their approval.
The Altenheim property was first purchased by the village in 2001 for $3.6 million from the German Old People’s Home, a not-for-profit agency. The Altenheim Corporation retained control of Arborwood and Briarwood, two independent living apartment buildings, as well as the cemetery.
At the time of the purchase, Calderone said that possible uses included everything from residential development to park space for residents.
The YMCA is currently located at 255 S. Marion St. in Oak Park. YMCA officials began considering a move after an expansion request was rejected by the Oak Park Zoning Board of Appeals in 2004. That expansion would have included a zero-depth entry warm water pool, ADA accessible locker rooms, family locker rooms, a new fitness center and space for after-school programs.
The Oak Park ZBA, however, said that the plan would have created a public safety hazard as pedestrians and cars would have needed to use a nearby alley to enter the parking lot.