Gov. Pat Quinn came to Forest Park Saturday to announce the award of $2.5 million to help build Forest Park’s new indoor gym and recreation center in the 7300 block of Harrison St.
“This is a huge, huge deal,” said Park District of Forest Park Executive Director Larry Piekarz. “We’ve been waiting a long time.”
The grant will be funded under the Illinois Jobs Now! construction initiative and will be used to “increase recreational opportunities, create jobs and drive Illinois’ economy forward,” Quinn said.
The grant is part of $50 million available through the Parks and Recreational Facility Construction (PARC) grants.
The 8,000 square foot indoor rec center will include a full-size basketball gymnasium and multi-purpose rooms and an adjoining 3,000 square foot fitness center. The total estimated cost of the project is around $6.2 million.
Piekarz said the next steps were to take soil samples to evaluate the site for brownfield-cleanup. A site is characterized as a ‘brownfield’ if it was formerly used for industrial work and may have spilled hazardous substances. Preliminary testing has determined there will be a need for some level of remediation. The next round of testing will be provide a clearer assessment of the need.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency issues a ‘no-further-remediation letter’ once all ground contamination is identified and remediated. In March, the park district was awarded a grant from the Illinois EPA to help determine the extent of the cleanup that will be necessary.
The brownfield remediation should be done by this October, Piekarz said. He said the project should be breaking ground spring or summer of 2015.
The park district is also in the running for a separate grant, from the Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) arm of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. If the district receives that grant, the cash will be used for landscaping the area around the building, including a gazebo, walking paths, and a flood water retention pond.
“We expect a ribbon cutting fall of 2016,” Piekarz said.
2009: The plan for the redevelopment of the site has been hatching since 2009 when developer Alex Troyanovsky went bust in his plan to turn the 90-plus year old Roos Cedar Chest factory into condo and townhome housing. The property passed from bank to bank during the economic meltdown.
2010: Voters approved a park district referendum asking for 12 cents on every $100,000 of assessed valuation to be earmarked for the acquisition and construction of a recreational facility.
Initially, the park district predicted the parcel would cost $1.3 million, but after years of exposure to the elements destroyed the value of the building, and as the parcel journeyed through the foreclosure process, the price fell.
2013: The park district purchased the building for $499,000 in May, and demolition commenced.
The parks board approved total costs for demolition for just under $420,000 completed by Midwest Wrecking Company of Chicago.
2014: Williams Architects of Itasca and Landscape Designer Bill Inman of Hitchcock Design Group submitted a “first pass” plan to the Illinois DNR to qualify for the grants, but Piekarz has said the park district is still accepting resident ideas for the rec center.
This article has been unpdated to correct that the fitness center will adjoined to the gymnasium, not on a second floor.