West Cook YMCA President Scott Gaalaas confirmed Monday afternoon that the YMCA had recently made an offer to purchase a portion of the village owned Altenheim property in Forest Park. The YMCA has been in negotiations with the village for several months in hopes of moving to Forest Park from its current site at 255 S. Marion St. in Oak Park.
“We have made an offer to the village, but haven’t gotten a response,” said Gaalaas. “They said they’d get back to us the first or second week of January.”
Village Administrator Michael Sturino declined to comment Tuesday morning, stating that it is the village’s policy not to negotiate property deals through the press.
Gaalaas declined to discuss the specifics of the offer before the village has given its response, but said that YMCA officials were “optimistic.”
Commissioner Terry Steinbach noted that she and the rest of the village council had received packets outlining the offer, and would discuss it in closed session following Monday evening’s council meeting. She declined to discuss the specifics of the offer.
Mayor Anthony Calderone could not be reached before the Review went to press.
Attentive Forest Park residents likely did a double take when glancing through the pages of the Chicago Tribune Dec. 26, as the paper’s ‘”New Construction” section, which lists construction projects coming up for bid, featured an entry for an 11-acre YMCA in Forest Park, with a project value listed at $4 million.
“I don’t know where that came from, but none of it is correct” said Gaalaas, noting that the Y had not offered, and never intended, to purchase the full 11 acres. The village has from the start made clear its intentions to retain the “grove” portion of the Altenheim property, used for events such as the “Groovin’ in the Grove” summer concert series, as permanent village-owned green space.
YMCA Chief Architect James Lencioni said last week that though there have been some preliminary discussions with construction companies to determine a ballpark price range for the project, he does not know how the listing got to the Tribune or to the web site www.bidclerk.com. He assured that no construction projects have yet gone out to bid.
“We are trying to get our ducks in a row in hopes that something happens,” he said.
“It makes sense for them…when you work with architects they can always give you a rough square footage price, but the only way to get a real fair number is to send it out to the marketplace,” Calderone said.
At the time, Calderone said that the village had not yet received an offer for the property, but noted that negotiations had continued to progress and he expected a letter of intent soon.
In October, Lencioni and Gaalaas came before the Forest Park village council with a presentation and a preliminary site plan for a Forest Park YMCA.
Commissioners expressed several concerns during the meeting which they said had been discussed months ago but not yet resolved. One was whether the YMCA would purchase land to be used for baseball and soccer fields, or whether it would rent the space from the village.
Calderone said last week that the village’s position on that matter would depend on how much land the YMCA offers to purchase and for how much.
Calderone has said in the past that the village’s asking price was approximately $1 million per acre, but emphasized that this number was only a rough estimate when asked last week if it was still accurate.
The village owned portion of the Altenheim property measures about 11 acres, but only 8 acres are developable, of which the village is willing to sell about 6 or 7 acres, according to Calderone. The land 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 YMCA first began seeking to move after the Oak Park zoning board denied its request for an expansion in 2004.