The long-awaited development of the vacant property at Harrison Street and Circle Avenue could begin moving forward on Feb. 6 when Park District of Forest Park officials present their proposal to the Village Plan Commission for approval.

If the five-member board, which oversees all public improvements for the village, endorses the plan, then the Forest Park Village Council will vote on the development. The current designs show a mixed-use space, including a playground, a soccer field, picnic areas, amphitheater seating and walking paths, along with a building on the southwest corner of the property containing a gym, fitness center, and classroom space. 

The entire project will cost an estimated $5 million, with about $2.9 million in state grants and the rest paid for using funds from the 2010 property tax referendum. 

Construction could start as soon as April and be finished in 12-14 months, assuming there are no holdups in the approval process, according to Larry Piekarz, the park district’s executive director.

“This is something the community has asked for for years now,” Piekarz said. “It’s something they should be excited about.”

The Feb. 6 Plan Commission meeting will be an opportunity for residents to offer feedback and input, Steve Glinke, Forest Park’s director of health and safety said. Glinke has been the liaison between the village’s planning team, which includes Village Administrator Tim Gillian and legal and planning consultants, and the park district throughout the process. The group considered neighborhood impact, site design and traffic circulation.

“We think it’s a good plan,” Glinke said. “We’re here to shepherd it through the process and help the park district.”

The development process also involved an intergovernmental agreement between village government and the park district. A stretch of Hannah Avenue, which is just west of the property and dead-ends at the I-290 expressway, will be updated and provide overnight permit and off-street parking as part of the project. Those changes will help meet the usage demand of the park district’s designs, Glinke said.

The park district also owns land to the west of the Hannah Avenue right-of-way. Glinke said the village will retain ownership of the road and provide upkeep, such as snowplowing.

The 2.5-acre site is the former home to the Roos furniture company factory. The park district acquired the property in May 2013 for $499,000.

Original plans for the site included a bigger building, but that plan was scaled back to fit the project’s current budget. As reported by the Review, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources approved grants for the park district in late summer 2016.

Repairs to the old factory building were initially considered, but a 2013 storm forced the village to demolish the long-vacant structure. ≠

“I’m really excited about getting it started,” Piekarz said. “It’s been a longtime coming.”