We just don’t get it.
Exactly 20 years after Forest Park — and Forest Parkers — dug deep to purchase 11 acres of open land at the Altenheim, the vast expanse remains basically untouched and completely unplanned.
There is a seeming aversion, across two mayors, to sitting down and having a public discussion of what this jewel of open space ought to be. Mayor Tony Calderone had the vision to make the $3.6 million acquisition happen way back when. He kept the property from being sold to residential developers who would have covered it with townhouses and apartments.
That was good. But then came endless, failed and, always private discussions, to sell large chunks of the space first to the West Cook YMCA (2007) and later to Fenwick High School (2012). Under pressure, an ad hoc citizens group that had already started making its own plans for the site was semi-deputized and then aggressively ignored.
Mayor Rory Hoskins has, we think, been worse. He’s got something up his sleeve. There have been discussions with potential developers that we don’t believe have ever been authorized by the village council. There are vague allusions he has made to whether possible development should be close to the CTA terminus or closer to Madison Street.
The property was appraised again in 2020. Efforts to force a discussion via an advisory referendum were blocked. A planned presentation to the village council by the citizens group was rudely pulled from the agenda on the day of. Hoskins called that presentation “premature.”
The only forward movement has been the demolition of derelict buildings on the property — buildings that might have been preserved if two decades had not been allowed to pass.
Now, in another inexplicable moment in the annals of the Altenheim, a planning consultant on the village’s dime for several projects was invited to make a presentation to the village council on Nov. 22 to offer a plan to engage the public in an Altenheim discussion. Courtney Kashima could not even engage the mayor and commissioners as none of the elected officials said word one about her plan. Her perfectly common-sense ideas landed like bricks.
For his part, Hoskins said that whatever comes next will be decided by the village council. Of course the village council will decide what is next. That’s why voters elected you.
But at some point, Forest Parkers have to have a voice in what happens to the only notable open space left in our land-locked village. We’re not sure why that prospect is so scary to the mayor. We do know the conversation is 20 years overdue.