An alternate proposal for the village-owned property behind the Altenheim Residences will include a sculpture garden, bicycle trails and a water retention pond to assist with area flooding, according to Village Commissioner Chris Harris. The village has been in negotiations with Fenwick High School in Oak Park to purchase the property for athletic fields and possibly a stadium. Harris will unveil his alternate proposal at a town hall meeting Thursday, Feb. 23 at Village Hall, at 7 p.m., he said.
Harris said he is working with Forest Park Recreation Board member Jennifer Wolfe to set up a not-for-profit corporation that could explore a way for an independently funded group to “preserve the area as green space,” he said Friday.
Village Administrator Tim Gillian said in an e-mail Monday that he believes maintaining the property as open space should be one of several options the village government considers going forward.
Harris said he was inspired by the Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park developed in 1988 on a 7-acre site in Skokie owned by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. The site features walking and bicycle paths and a citizen panel approves the temporary display of outdoor sculptures.
The village bought the property behind Altenheim in 2001 and it has remained vacant for 10 years. The village pays $360,000 annually (almost $1,000 per day) in debt service on the loan taken to buy the land. In November, 2011 the village refinanced the remaining $3.2 million owed on the loan at a variable interest rate that started at 1.37 percent and will climb until the loan is repaid in 2021. The interest rate had formerly been 4.15 percent.
“We have nine years left on the loan and we’ve done nothing [with the property]. We’ve paid [most of] the interest at this point and are getting into the principal,” said Harris.
Harris announced the plan on the Facebook site, Forest Parkers Against Flooding.
R.J. McMahon of Fenwick High School said last week that Fenwick hoped to buy the property and was interested in partnering with the Park District of Forest Park and the Altenheim home so that others could use the site when the school teams were not practicing or holding games.
Gillian said he’s discussed many different options for the property.
“I mentioned at a meeting with Commissioner Harris which included a member of the recreation board and the park district that potentially the village council should examine some options for the site.Ê They might include continued discussions with Fenwick, enhanced marketing for the site, or maintain possession of the property and examine green space options,” Gillian wrote in an email.