Before a developer wowed us with drawings of a sweeping renovation to the vacant and dilapidated Roos building on Harrison, there was talk of seeing the land used for green space. Before the economy tanked and the housing boom crumbled, the Park District of Forest Park eyed this parcel that sits so conveniently next to its existing facilities. Park officials decided then not to take this costly leap to expand the park.
Well, things are dismally different now.
Banks are afraid to issue loans and in the meantime are asking for public funds to help offset the toxic assets that once seemed so appealing. At construction sites, the sound of crickets chirping has replaced the industrious bang of the hammer. And in Forest Park, nowhere is this nationwide collapse more apparent than at the corner of Harrison and Circle where a castle lies in ruins.
To offer a possible silver cloud in this dismal scenario, we would suggest that the park district again consider purchasing the Roos. Green space (that’s not plugged full of tombstones) is at a premium in Forest Park. It’s unlikely the land will ever be available for less, and much has been said of the need for a teen center. This could be a great opportunity.
Of course, the property is still owned by a developer who only a few months ago insisted that 70 condos and 28 townhouses were still on the menu. Call us skeptics, but even if the developers try and hang on the lenders may not make it. Amcore, the bank that holds the paperwork on a $15 million construction loan, is in dire straits. Earlier this month the bank reported its fourth consecutive quarterly loss and shares were down to an all-time low – $1.49 on Nasdaq, according to Crain’s.
Perhaps this plum property will taste even better when it’s plucked from the lowest branches.