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Kudos to Commissioner Ryan Nero for stating plainly that the next step in planning for the future use of the village-owned property at the Altenheim is “talking to the customer.”

That would be you, Forest Park resident and taxpayer. At a village council meeting where the council signed off on a pact with the state to provide $750,000 in grant funding to demolish the remaining derelict buildings on the 11- acre site, a succession of elected officials swore up and down that there is no development plan in the village’s back pocket. Outgoing Village Administrator Tim Gillian reiterated that it will take a majority of the council to approve any future plan for the site. We could have done without the insinuation that residents paying close attention to plans for Forest Park’s village-owned and largest unplanned and open green space are somehow conspiracy theorists. We’d call them skeptics and suggest that the skepticism is well earned by the actions of both the current mayor and the former mayor over what is now decades of odd inaction. Opening up the next step in the process, as Nero suggests, is long past due. It should be welcomed by the council, not seen as threatening. The mayor and council ultimately will make the decisions. That’s what voters elected them to do. And there is, it seems to us, now a consensus that the final plan for this green gem will combine some portion of residential and commercial development along with a well-thought-out park space and gathering space for community events. We want to hear details on how that planning process will take place. What’s the timeline? Who will facilitate? There is a lot of interest in this project. That’s all good. We were also heartened by the comments of Commissioner Jessica Voogd who proclaimed the economic development value of green space. She could not be more correct. Well planned and well executed, the future park at the Altenheim will be a selling point for Forest Park for decades to come. Meanwhile, it is good news that, after years of delays brought on by bad Springfield politics and worse state finances, the demolition money is now locked in. Bids on the demolition project will be opened before the month ends. While it is sad to see these once treasured buildings leveled, there is no question that they are too far gone for reclamation. This is all an opportunity for inclusion, for collaboration (welcome, park district), for invention and, yes, for some fun. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to build something new and wonderful for this village.