Let’s build at The Park

After seven years of anticipation, it was a joyous Saturday morning at The Park last week. The groundbreaking for the Family Recreation Center drew a large and enthused crowd of park officials, village officials and two local state legislators who played active roles in making this ambitious project happen.

While final permits have not yet been issued by village hall to allow construction, officials assure that the remaining details are technical and building on the site of the old Roos Cedar Chest factory will begin shortly.

Surely we can find just a bit more patience for a project that has faced astonishing obstacles from one end to the other. There was the Great Recession and real estate collapse which made this effort both possible and nearly impossible. Having a seriously over-extended condo developer fall into foreclosure on the Roos building was the gift. Working through multiple banks, a locked-up credit market and, essentially, waiting for the bottom of the market to make the building affordable took years.

And then there was the fully dysfunctional state of Illinois, an essential partner in projects such as this through various park expansion grants. Forest Park came upon the state in the throes of the political wars and the melting down of the state budget. Multiple grants were won, but funds were frozen. State Senator Kimberly Lightford and State Rep. Chris Welch (Yes, the same Chris Welch seldom complimented on this page) did the hard work of legislating and working the levers in Springfield. Clearly this project would not have happened without their smart and determined help.

Our park district, which has never undertaken a project of this scope and complexity, was smart along the way and found professional assistance to help negotiate these winding, sometimes conflicting paths. Executive Director Larry Piekarz and the elected board showed patience and persistence throughout the seemingly endless saga.

Watching this extraordinary expansion of Forest Park’s park is going to be great fun. And while we are offering up thanks, let’s never forget generous taxpayers in Forest Park who enthusiastically backed the referendum to pay for this way back in 2010.

Remaking Roosevelt Road

There was a second groundbreaking south of the Ike recently. And while not quite as well attended, the launch of the remaking of Roosevelt Road is another notable achievement in Forest Park. Beyond the necessary repaving and new sidewalks, this ambitious streetscaping effort will hopefully be the start of renewal for this street.

The challenges are real as the future of retail is changing at a furious rate. The reimagining of Roosevelt Road is going to require bold thinking and some good fortune. But first, a summer of construction mayhem, followed by a brighter future.

The Review and the Hall

On Saturday night, the Forest Park Review was honored by the Softball Hall of Fame for our many years of partnership in promoting the annual 16-inch No Gloves Tournament held at The Park. We’ve produced the annual special section on the tournament for decades now and, as it is for the park in hosting the event, this project is one of the year’s highlights for us.

And so, our thanks to the Hall of Fame.