Mayor Anthony Calderone’s word that he will not sell the village-owned Altenheim property until Forest Parkers have the opportunity to speak on the issue is good enough for us.
At a village council meeting Monday, Calderone went so far as to pledge that he would return a check if Fenwick were to walk in the door with an offer to buy the 11 acre parcel of rare open space in Forest Park. Perhaps more telling, Calderone said that Fenwick’s desire to build a football stadium on the site “frankly doesn’t excite me a lot.”
We are with the mayor on that one. We were with Calderone on the Altenheim land purchase from the start. That was 11 years ago when the village rather boldly, or recklessly, bought the property from the Altenheim senior facility to prevent it from being sold to developers. That was the right move.
Now the question is what is the next move. There were several recession-bound years lost to endless negotiations with the West Cook YMCA to purchase the site for a new recreation and sports facility. Recently there has been the Fenwick interregnum which has seemingly left typical adversaries jointly uninspired at the prospect of giving over the precious open space to a private prep school football stadium.
The prospect of losing the site to Fenwick spurred open space proponents Ð including members of the village’s Recreation Board and Commissioner Chris Harris to organize a well-attended town hall meeting early this year. The consensus that lively evening was that the village must actively develop the property as an open space that might include youth sports facilities, community gardens, a “village green” for entertainment events, and in what seems a lost dream to us, the restoration of a couple of existing buildings left from the Altenheim era.
Out of that meeting came a promise from Calderone to conduct a village-wide survey asking all residents their thoughts on how the property ought best be used. Now six months later, that plan had morphed into incorporating a survey into the coming Comprehensive Plan process. But last week Calderone announced he was recommending that the distinct survey be pulled in favor of allowing the future of the Altenheim property to be assessed via the comprehensive plan itself.
At Monday’s meeting it was implied that federal officials who are funding the Comprehensive Plan have said they aren’t enthusiastic for a separate survey on a single topic.
We’re persuaded that given the confluence of the Comprehensive Plan and the survey issues that, for now, the Altenheim property’s future is best understood via the plan process. That assumes the plan process is open and welcoming of all citizens and all viewpoints. The village can always come back around to a separate Altenheim survey, perhaps when a clearer vision for the property has emerged from the Comprehensive Plan.