Construction crew members remove the Altenheim chapel spire on April 26. | Alex Rogals, Staff Photographer

In a symbolic ceremony on April 26, the Altenheim chapel spire was removed, celebrating the ongoing demolition of the dilapidated structures on the village-owned land.

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

The event was attended by many involved and/or interested parties, including Mayor Rory Hoskins; Village Administrator Tim Gillian; Commissioners Ryan Nero, Jessica Voogd and Joe Byrnes; Village Clerk Vanessa Moritz; Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson; Christopher Burke, head of the village’s engineering firm; and Laurie Kokenes, chamber executive director.

For Hoskins in particular, the event was notable, as the demolition of the buildings was at the forefront of his campaign for mayor.

Dawn Sanchez, left, and Mayor Rory Hoskins watch as construction workers remove the Altenheim chapel spire on April 26. | Alex Rogals, Staff Photographer

Gillian, who was a commissioner when the property was originally purchased, spoke briefly at the spire-removal event.

“There’s a lot of people who never thought they’d see this day,” Gillian said. He said that when the village purchased the land, officials weren’t actually sure what they were going to do with it, but they wanted to stop a developer from putting in tract housing.

“Once the buildings are down, there’s a lot to do,” Gillian said. “But getting them down is a huge first step.”

Village Administrator Tim Gillian addresses the crowd at the Altenheim on April 26. | Alex Rogals, Staff Photographer

Brandon Johnson applauded the village for its vision. “It’s vision just like this that continues to motivate our efforts to make sure there’s funding available for neighborhoods like this one,” Johnson said. He added that the demolition and subsequent land presents a great opportunity for “a mixed-use space.”

In fact, the intergovernmental grant agreement between the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and the village of Forest Park has wording in it that refers to future use of the land post-demolition.

It states that the village “will prepare the site for a future mix-use that will consist of residential, commercial, and green space, to be paid via other funding sources.” There is, however, no stipulation regarding how much acreage must be allocated to any of those aforementioned uses.

The red-hatched buildings are the ones scheduled for demolition. | CBBEL

The asbestos removal within the five structures on the village owned Altenheim property began in March and is being done by KLF Enterprises, Inc. which submitted the lowest demolition bid at $546,970 and was awarded the demolition contract at a Feb. 9 village council meeting.

According to Gillian, the asbestos removal in the buildings will require a few more weeks of work, after which time the “real” demolition will begin.

This reporter’s hoping for a wrecking ball.