First reported 8/24/2010 4:32 p.m.

The site of the alleged arson that scorched an apartment building across the street from village hall in July could become the new home to the Historical Society of Forest Park, based on a tentative deal between the village and the bank that owns the foreclosed property.  

Though not yet official, it appears that Deutsche Bank is considering donating the fire-torn two-flat at 512 Desplaines Ave. to the community, Mayor Anthony Calderone announced at Monday’s village council meeting.

“It looks like the bank is willing to give us the property,” Calderone said. “From a business perspective, making this donation is equally advantageous to them because they would be disposing a troubled asset.”

The bank assumed ownership of the building just days before the fire destroyed the interior and damaged the roof, according to Village Administrator Tim Gillian. So now, rather than finish the foreclosure process, restore the structure and try to sell it, it seems better for the bank to just “take it off their books,” he said. (The foreclosure attorney representing Deutsche Bank could not be immediately reached.)

Steve Glinke, fire chief and director of the building department, said the building does not pose a hazardous threat, but it does emit an odor and stands as somewhat of a “nuisance” on the street.

“Without a roof, there’s been a lot of rain and there’s clearly a mold problem,” he said. “But structurally, the building is remarkable.”

Total demolition would not be necessary, he said. But gutting the interior, closing the roof and general clean-up should be done as soon as possible.

The property appeals to the village because it rests across the street from a small hub of public buildings and could therefore share the same parking lot. Meanwhile, the Historical Society, a non-profit organization independent from the village, is currently homeless and seeking a permanent space.

Calderone said that offering the property to the Historical Society would be an asset to the town in the long-run.

“It’s good for any community to hold on to their history and the way you do that is through these historical societies,” Calderone said.

Rich Vitton, president of the historical society, has been storing a wealth of Forest Park treasures in his basement ever since his group was displaced from a room in the library.

From land documents signed by President Martin Van Buren to photos of the first steam locomotive that rode through what is now Forest Park, Vitton said he has tons of “research going all the way back to the 1700s.”

“It’s just mindboggling all the history we have here,” Vitton said. “To view it and understand the history would be great.”

However, Vitton doesn’t want to get excited just yet since the plans are still at such an early stage in development.

“I don’t want to get my hopes up and then get slapped in the face,” he said. “Right now it’s a wait-and-see deal.”

As for the next step, village attorneys plan to discuss and negotiate the details of the agreement with representatives of the bank. The mayor said he wants to make sure there are no liens or tax liabilities tied to the property. 

If the town is awarded a clear title, Calderone said he would also like to “make the building a green showcase” utilizing environmentally friendly technology.

He estimated that renovations could cost anywhere from $300,000 to $400,000, but the village would seek out “green technology grants” to cover the cost.

“Right now we don’t have the money to do that, but there’s no sense of urgency,” Calderone said.

Gillian also added that it is “too early in the game” to know many details. The idea only recently came up because of a “unique set of circumstances,” he said.

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