We simply cannot explain the protracted silence of Mayor Anthony Calderone on the future of the village-owned Altenheim property. Its bold purchase by the village more than a decade ago is at the top of the list of his mayoral accomplishments. Why, in what most certainly is his final term as mayor, he does not want to lead the planning on what actually gets built on his crown jewel is just beyond us.
As Richie Daley has Millennium Park, so too Tony Calderone might have Calderone Grove. But instead we have crickets. No plan. No committee to make a plan. Literally we have crickets (and occasionally music). Maybe a squatter in the abandoned Altenheim buildings. Once a year some good ribs.
If nature abhors a vacuum, then Forest Park’s grandest piece of undeveloped land has produced a citizen-backed initiative to build a “cultural park,” a “mini-Ravinia” on the 11-acre parcel just south of Madison Street.
And this week, after months of deferring to the mayor, that citizen, Ralph DiFebo is hosting three “casual forums” where he will present his lovely and ambitious concept of building a concert venue on the site.
We like this idea though we have no idea of its practicality. Are there examples of other municipalities running such venues? And not losing their/our shirts? What is the governing/operating structure? With the coming retirement of the loan used to buy the property, there are, potentially, village funds that could be shifted to a construction phase, but is that amount ample to fund the debt?
In a more logical scenario, the mayor would appoint a blue ribbon committee to study multiple options, to engage citizens in this exciting opportunity, to vet proposals such as this intriguing one from Mr. DiFebo. Absent that, we have Ralph and a small band of compatriots ready to make their well-thought-out and visually stunning presentation on March 1 at Exit Strategy Brewing, March 3 at McGaffer’s, and March 10 at the Buzz Café in Oak Park.
We’ll be there. We’d like to think that the mayor and village commissioners might show up, too.
More strange inaction
In 2013, Forest Park voters gave a definitive answer to a non-binding referendum question on allowing video gaming in local bars and restaurants. The answer was no.
We’d have thought that would do it.
But a year ago when the Review and the Chamber sponsored a pre-election forum, we were highly surprised when every commissioner candidate — incumbent and newbie alike — said the matter should be re-examined.
Count us in opposition to video poker machines and gaudy neon signs proclaiming same. Forest Park political and business leaders worked too hard over too many years in resurrecting Madison Street as a destination to now turn it into Berwyn North.
That said, if the matter is still out there simmering, then, for heaven’s sake, bring it back for discussion and vote by the council. Up or down. Put it to bed. But again Mayor Calderone said he doesn’t know when or if the issue is coming back. Who took the old Tony Calderone who led from in front and made decisions? We’ll take a blend of old and new Tony, please.