Updated Nov. 20, 2012 – 3:25 p.m.

The village-owned building at 512 Desplaines and Altenheim outbuildings are too far gone to rehab and should be torn down, Public Health and Safety Commissioner told the Village Council Nov. 13.

Hoskins said he had toured both buildings recently and both were derelict and could not be rehabilitated. Hoskins said the Desplaines building was uninhabitable, but that squatters had broken into the Altenheim building on the second floor and left a heater, children’s toys and clothes and other evidence. Hoskins advised demolishing both buildings and not waiting two more years until the completion of the village’s Comprehensive Plan.

Hoskins described the 512 Desplaines building as “full of rotten wood. There’s no roof on that building and the personal effects of prior owners are still there and covered with mold. It’s not a very sanitary place to walk through.”

“My suggestion, as council,” said Hoskins, “would be over the next year we plan to demolish the 512 building.”

“We could use it for parking or for an open area for village employees to enjoy lunches in the summer time,” Hoskins added.

The future of the burned-out three flat has been on hold since the village purchased the ruins in 2011 for around $8,000. Various proposals have been floated, including giving it – as is – to the Forest Park Historical Society and Chamber of Commerce, or partnering with a “green technology” company to rehab the building into an alternate technology showroom. Karen Childs, vice president of the Forest Park Public Library Board, has requested that the two-flat property be razed and used for library parking.

In February, the Mayor Anthony Calderone told residents at a town hall meeting that he had never been inside the building and that the village had not gotten any contractor quotes to assess how much repairs might cost. In 2011, the Review reported that a contractor’s rough estimates varied between $100,000 and $400,000. The building deteriorated further and the roof collapsed over the course of two-and-a-half years.

But Village Administrator Tim Gillian – who has been inside the burnt-out two flat – admitted Nov. 14 that the building was unsalvageable.

“That building is going to end up coming down,” he said. “It’s not usable for the historical society or anyone else,” Gillian said.

Costs to demolish the building were reported as $20,000 to $40,000 by the Review in 2011.

Gillian said that grant funds from Cook County for demolition of abandoned buildings had evaporated, but that he was always looking for grants from the county and the state.

“We just have to find the money,” Gillian said.

Hoskins said that the abandoned Altenheim outbuilding was even more worrisome because it was a bigger building, and showed evidence of squatters.

Hoskins said boarded up windows had been broken and he had found children’s clothing, bedding, a can of bug spray and “an old heater” inside. He later said he saw an open sumpwell of standing water that might be a drowning risk for children.

Gillian said the police were aware of the building.

“That area is very heavily patrolled. Believe me, the police have it on their radar.” He added he was having public works employees re-attach plywood to broken windows.

In two negotiation documents to buy the property, the West-Cook YMCA and Fenwick High School asked the village to demolish the outbuilding.

Gillian said waiting for the Comprehensive Plan made sense in regard to the Altenheim building, especially if residents wanted to develop the 11 acres owned by the village.

“I’d sure rather have a developer pay to demolish it,” Gillian said.

The village’s Comprehensive Plan was set to examine potential uses of both buildings, but Hoskins suggested that waiting for the end of the planning process would be too long.

“If we leave it up to the Comprehensive Plan it’s just two more years of non-use; it’s not doing our village any good.”

Jean Lotus

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...