An offer from the West Cook YMCA to purchase nearly eight acres of the former Altenheim property for $4.3 million was met with approval at last week’s village council meeting, bringing a planned $19 million recreation facility one step closer to reality.
Terms of the sale still need to be negotiated, but the in-principle agreement marks a significant breakthrough in discussions for the property, which began in October 2005. Just two months ago, negotiators for the Oak Park non-profit said they had reached their spending limit with respect to the purchase price for the property. At the time, Mayor Anthony Calderone said the YMCA was some $300,000 to $600,000 shy of meeting the village’s asking price.
Following the Jan. 8 council meeting, Village Administrator Mike Sturino said the YMCA Board of Directors increased its offer from $4 million.
The YMCA is set to take ownership of 7.85 acres of land, Sturino said, leaving the village with roughly three acres that includes the grove area and a chapel building with its various outposts.
The village bought the land at 7824 Madison St. in 2001 for $3.65 million.
Commissioner Patrick Doolin said the village had the property appraised at $4.6 million, but he was satisfied with the YMCA’s offer. Doolin, a real estate agent, said the terms of the sale can be negotiated favorably for the village, perhaps giving the municipality access to various amenities that are expected to come with the multi-million dollar recreation facility.
“It’s going to improve quality of life,” Doolin said. “We don’t have that type of facility here.”
Preliminary drawings of the planned development call for 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. Plans for outdoor soccer, baseball and softball fields are also on the table.
Locker rooms, sauna, racquetball courts and a health food bar may be included as well.
West Cook YMCA President Scott Gaalaas expects the total cost of the project to be nearly $20 million dollars. On Jan. 23, the YMCA board will hear a consultant’s projection on how much money can be raised through donations, Gaalaas said. It’s anticipated that some $12 million in outside funding is needed. The feasibility study presented later this month will help determine timelines for that effort and for construction.
“That’s what we need to raise,” Gaalaas said. “We would need to raise very close to $12 million to $13 million.”
That estimate, Gaalaas said, does not include the purchase price for the land.
Calderone said he’s confident the YMCA can raise the necessary funds, and will likely do well for itself when the existing facility is sold.
“They seem very confident that they’ve got some financial commitments, but nobody’s willing to sign on until they’ve struck a deal here (for the land),” Calderone said.
The West Cook YMCA at 255 S. Marion St. in Oak Park was built in 1953 and is significantly outdated. Failed attempts to expand the facility in 2004 prompted the board to begin looking elsewhere to construct a brand new YMCA.
The village will be interested in enforcing a timeline regulating how long the YMCA has to develop the property, Sturino said. Those details will be worked out in negotiations, and could stipulate that the land be returned to the village if the project is unsuccessful.
“This is not going to be an open ended type of deal,” Sturino said. “Part of the whole deal is that we want to see a YMCA.”
Calderone suggested that 15 months will be allowed for the YMCA’s capital campaign. During that time, earnest payments would be made to the village until ownership is turned over to the YMCA board.
“We would not actually close on the property,” Calderone said. “We would still own it while they’re going through their capital campaign.”
Should the YMCA fail to finance the project, the village would retain ownership and keep the payments made in earnest, Calderone said. Also, if the YMCA’s campaign is successful but for some reason the new facility is not constructed, the village would retain the right of first refusal on the property and purchase it back from the YMCA for the same $4.3 million.
Commissioner Terry Steinbach agreed with Doolin that the YMCA would be a great addition to the community, but cautioned that the particulars of the contract should be negotiated to favor the village. Steinbach characterized the sale price as giving a $300,000 discount on the appraised value. That difference, she said should be made up with perks for village residents.