As Forest Park’s park district board continues to work on the details of acquiring the Roos property in closed session, President Cathy McDermott said she is “confident” about the deal.
McDermott sat down with the Forest Park Review in The Park conference room last week to talk about the board’s plans for a multi-use complex at the Roos. Those plans include three floors of 7,000 square feet each that will be home to a teen center, a senior center, a fitness room, various classrooms and meeting rooms, and a preschool.
“I’m more confident than I’ve ever been,” said McDermott, when asked when the board expects to complete the purchase of the property. She did not provide a specific date.
The park district plans to demolish the deteriorating Circle Avenue portion of the building, renovate the Harrison street side and build a gym behind the property. The Harrison building’s three floors will be developed for the aforementioned uses.
McDermott said the park district wants to partner with the West Suburban Special Recreation Association (WSSRA) – an organization comprising multiple park districts, including Forest Park’s, and villages that provides recreation for persons with disabilities – to offer space on the first floor of the Harrison building. McDermott said WSSRA’s current location in Franklin Park is crammed, and this would offer more space. The second floor will likely house a teen center, with computers and TVs, space for seniors to gather, as well as a preschool. On the third floor, there will be a fitness center and other designated classrooms and meeting rooms.
McDermott said the bundled cost of the project should come out to roughly $10 million after factoring in the purchase and price tag of development. McDermott said the park is also applying for two grants which could provide up to $2.6 million.
“You’re looking at a 10-year thing to get it [Roos] where they want it,” said Joe Murray, the park board’s treasurer, in a phone conversation. Murray said the park district will be “using it” within a year, though, noting that the space will be used during the possibly decade-long construction of the complex.
The board’s discussions regarding a deal between Harris Bank and former developer Alex Troyanovsky are being conducted behind closed doors so board members and Park Director Larry Piekarz have offered the public few details.
“We’ve identified what the two issues are,” McDermott said. Those are obtaining the building’s title from Troyanovsky and making sure the grounds are not contaminated, she said.
“We want people sitting on this grass for years,” McDermott said. “We’re going above and beyond …[and] doing our due diligence.”
McDermott told the Review that an environmental firm already took samples from the property’s ground and determined that there is “some contamination.” But, a more extensive examination is still required.
“We have to find out will we will be able to salvage anything or will we have to walk away from it [project],” McDermott said in a phone conversation on Monday.
If the ground does not meet EPA standards, McDermott said the property tax revenue that the park district is collecting subsequent to a tax referendum will be abated.
She said that money is “exclusively for the purchase of the Roos property.”
“That’s what we promised the people,” she added, speaking on the phone last week.
Last year voters passed a tax referendum that allowed the park board to capture enough property tax revenue to prove an ability to pay back the sale of up to $7 million in municipal bonds to investors, McDermott said.
Because the referendum was not included in the levy, and due to the fact that the ballot question was incorrectly worded, the passed referendum was essentially meaningless. A state fix-it law made it possible for the board to collect that revenue. The board anticipates seeing between $200,000 and $300,000 annually.
McDermott, who is up for reelection on April 5, has said her primary focus and priority is completing the Roos acquisition.