The Park District of Forest Park’s commissioners voted unanimously on Sept. 15 to approve a $292,038 contract with Elgin-based American Demolition to remediate and demolish the buildings at 7400-7412 Harrison St.
The park district plans to use the land for a new indoor facility, which would allow it to expand its indoor programs, such as the popular day camp program. The plans for the new building are still being developed, but the park district wants to level the existing buildings and take care of any environmental contamination as quickly as possible. Jackie Iovinelli, park district executive director, told the board that it’s the simple matter of liability – if any of the buildings collapse and someone gets hurt, they will be on the hook for the damages.
Programing space has been an ongoing issue for the park district. With the village landlocked, it doesn’t have many opportunities to grow. It could also provide programing space for the West Suburban Special Recreation Association, of which the Park District of Forest Park is a member. Iovinelli previously said conversations with the special rec district are still in the early stages.
The park district purchased the property in March 2022, after the previous proposal to redevelop the long vacant commercial spaces into apartments faced community backlash. The site includes the currently abandoned building that previously housed the Pines restaurant and the Oak Leaf Lounge, as well as the still operating Forest Park Foreign Car Repair shop. The shop has been operating on a month-to-month lease under the previous ownership, and it has been paying rent to the park district recently.
Iovinelli told the board that the car repair shop owner Vladimir Rejman has asked for multiple extensions since March as it tried to move out. She said that he recently asked for an extension, but the park district is taking a hard line this time.
“The last day of Foreign Car Repair Shop is Sept. 30,” Iovinelli said. “We do need that to move forward, because we need to start remediation before [demolition]. [Rejman] is looking for more time, and we’ve given him seven months now.”
Reiman didn’t respond to calls seeking comment by deadline.
She said the exact demolition timeline will depend on how long the remediation will take. Iovinelli also said that the contract amount is the maximum rather than the fixed sum – if the contractor’s costs end up at less than $292,038, the district will keep the extra money.
Once the demolition is complete, Iovinelli said, the lots will be evenly graded to give the park district a blank canvas to work on, and the lots will be fenced off.
Commissioner Cathleen McDermott wondered how the park district would deal with any “critters” that may have taken up residence at the Pines/Oak Leaf building. Iovinelli said that “there are critters, definitely” in the building, and that this was something the park district will work with Steve Glinke, Forest Park’s public health and safety director, to address.
What about that sign?
Since the park district announced plans to demolish the Pines/Oak Leaf building, several parties, including the Forest Park Historical Society, expressed interest in acquiring the building’s “Oak Leaf” neon sign.
Iovinelli told the Review that, as of Sept. 19, the district offered the sign to the Historical Society, but they don’t have any plans for what might happen if the organization doesn’t take the park district up on its offer.