Negotiators for the West Cook YMCA said a deal to buy land from the village for a new recreation facility will be penned soon, despite a sizeable gap between their offer and the village’s asking price.
While several top administrators at the YMCA are projecting an agreement within two months, Village Administrator Mike Sturino was less optimistic the process will move as swiftly.
“There’s been no final agreement on the main issue, which is the price,” Sturino said of the negotiations. “I would call the pace glacial.”
YMCA President and CEO Scott Gaalaas acknowledged that a selling price has not been agreed to, and negotiators for the YMCA are digging their heels in on their offer to the village.
Mayor Anthony Calderone said the difference between the asking price and the YMCA’s offer is between $300,000 and $600,000.
Richard Blaurock is the chairman of the YMCA’s relocation committee and is handling much of the negotiations for the board. Blaurock said the village’s asking price and the YMCA’s offer for the property are based on two different appraisals paid for by the negotiating parties. Neither party would reveal what they believe the property to be worth.
However, Calderone is one of at least four council members who said this gap is not insurmountable. Commissioners Mark Hosty, Patrick Doolin and Tim Gillian also said the YMCA’s final offer may not be a deal breaker.
“I still have every confidence that this could be worked out,” Gillian said.
Both Blaurock and Jim Lencioni, president of the YMCA Board of Directors said their offer is not going to increase. Such a position may require a change in their construction plans, and Lencioni said the YMCA could make do with a smaller plot.
“One of those (construction) elements would have to not happen, theoretically, one of the ball fields,” Lencioni said.
The West Cook YMCA in Oak Park is eyeing a roughly seven-acre portion of the village government owned Altenheim property located off Madison Street to construct a new facility. The Y’s existing property at 255 S. Marion St. in Oak Park was built in 1953 and is significantly outdated, according to Gaalaas. The non-profit was denied a permit by Oak Park to renovate and expand its existing facility in 2004, Gaalaas said, and is looking to construct a new $19 million facility in Forest Park.
Despite the differing perceptions over the progress of the negotiations, Gaalaas remains optimistic that a deal will be struck.
“We’re very, very close to pulling off a deal,” Gaalaas said. “We have our fingers crossed.”
Preliminary drawings are underway for the new facility, Gaalaas said, and the YMCA plans to build a 65,000-square foot facility with two indoor swimming pools, an indoor track and indoor basketball and volleyball courts. The complex would also provide parking for more than 200 vehicles and have outdoor soccer, baseball and softball fields. Other proposed amenities include a gym, locker rooms, child care center, meeting rooms, sauna, racquetball courts, climbing wall and health food bar.
To pay for the project, YMCA board members will rely heavily on donations to cover an estimated $10 million worth of the costs, Lencioni said. A feasibility study is underway to determine how successful the board will be in soliciting those funds.
YMCA board members are not stating publicly what they expect to sell the 45,000-square foot facility on South Marion Street for, but board member Geri McLauchlan said the group’s assets should make a significant contribution to the construction costs.
“The Y has substantial assets,” McLauchlan said. “There’s a substantial amount that the Y would have.”
Former Oak Park Township assessor Galen Gockel said some circles estimate the current property to be worth $8 million, but the selling price will ultimately depend on the buyer’s intended use.
“They’re going to get fair value for it,” Gockel said. “They’re not going to give it away or discount it. They’re going to respond to the highest offer.”
The Cook County Assessor does not provide assessments for tax-exempt properties.
Officials on both sides of the table said their respective boards are in favor of building a new YMCA in Forest Park, but ultimately their votes may hinge on the particulars of the arrangement.