A real estate appraisal of the village owned Altenheim property will be completed by the end of July, said both Mayor Rory Hoskins and Director of Public Health and Safety Steve Glinke.

The village is ready to go out to bid on demolition of remaining building on the site, the village council having approved the bid notice and contracts, as soon as promised grant money from the state is received.

The Altenheim property, just south of Madison Street along Van Buren Street, surrounds the functioning and separately owned Altenheim Retirement Home. Village property includes almost 11 acres and five derelict structures – including the chapel – that will be demolished.

Just over a year ago, in June 2019, the village secured a promise of $750,000 from the state of Illinois to demolish the old hospital buildings and chapel. More than half the cost will be for asbestos and environmental abatement costs, according to Glinke. 

According to Hoskins in an interview last week, the property was appraised in 2015 and was valued at $5.2 million. The village is currently seeking an updated appraisal, however, which should be completed by the end of the month.

“The village has no concrete plans at this moment,” Hoskins said. “But I’m not adverse to letting a couple acres go.” Because of its proximity to the Blue Line train stop, it would be what’s considered a transit-oriented development, Hoskins said, which would make the property desirable for developers.

Hoskins said his position on the Altenheim hasn’t changed since debates prior to his election, during which he stated that he wanted to monetize a portion of the property, as selling part of it would bring cash to the village as well as a business boost for the restaurants and shops on Madison Street. He said at least five acres of the property – almost half – should be saved as green space.

As for when discussions will start to take place for the fate of the Altenheim property? Hoskins is waiting until the buildings come down, a step he cited as a top priority of his during his mayoral campaign.

“First things first,” said Hoskins.

Glinke said the appraisal will look at the almost-11 acres as a whole but will also break it down into parcels of several acres based on the “appraiser’s best estimation of value in the context of development.”

“It’s a ‘cafeteria appraisal,’ offering different options,” Glinke said. “Depending on the council’s perspective or will, they can offload it in smaller sections it that’s the route they choose to take.” As far as he knows, Glinke said, nobody has ever suggested selling the entire property.

The appraisal will provide necessary information the council will need to make a decision on the property, said Glinke, ideally with a public meeting to once more allow residents to speak up. And any development on the property would be done with recommendations from MUSE, the village planner, “to determine the highest and best uses” for the land, and with the consideration of residents of adjacent The Residences at the Grove.

“There are no plans at this point other than to get the buildings razed,” Glinke said.

The Cultural Park Committee, an ad hoc committee formed in December 2016 and headed by resident Ralph DiFebo, last recommended selling the north section of the property, the two acres known as The Grove, to a developer to construct a 55 and older condominium development or boutique hotel. Proceeds from the sale would be used to demolish the chapel and remaining buildings on the property, pay off the remaining debt, and develop a drainage system for the south Altenheim field. The committee suggested that, next, a park should be created with similar attributes to The Grove, and a feasibility study should be conducted to determine the best use of the south Altenheim property.

In an interview in February 2020, Hoskins said there had been talk over the years about the Park District of Forest Park possibly expanding their offerings or services on the Altenheim property.

In an interview last week, park district Executive Director Jackie Iovinelli said the park district “is not interested in purchasing” any part of the Altenheim, as that would mean the taxpayers were paying twice for the same property. However, the park district would be interested in developing it if offered to them.

The village purchased the property for $3.6 million in 2001, a decision pushed by former Mayor Tony Calderone to stop a developer from building townhomes. The loan for the property will be paid off in 2023, according to Village Administrator Tim Gillian.

In 2007, a potential $4.3 million sale to the Oak Park YMCA fell through as the Y could not obtain financing, and in 2012 Fenwick High School offered to purchase the south section of the Altenheim property for athletic facilities but the village declined