on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, during a public forum discussing the Altenheim, at Forest Park village hall. | ALEX ROGALS/Staff Photographer

The Altenheim Advisory Committee agreed to hold an open house and a table session, as well as to put together four focus groups in order to get as much input as possible on the future of the village-owned portion on the historic Altenheim retirement community site. 

The committee settled on the plan during its Nov. 7 meeting, after a nearly 80-minute discussion. This built upon the feedback committee members got on Nov. 5 surveying residents at an event, their research of past plans for the site and some of their own brainstorming. The goal is to develop an “outline” of what committee members believe should be included in an eventual village-issued Request for Proposal document that would be used to solicit development proposals.

The committee agreed to have four focus groups – local Realtors, residents living west of the CSX Railroad tracks, residents and businesses east of the tracks and one for members of the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce. They also planned to set dates for a late afternoon open house at the Roos Recreation Center, 7329 Harrison St., and a table session at the Forest Park Post Office, 417 Desplaines Ave., on a Saturday morning. While the committee didn’t settle on the exact dates, their goal is to get feedback from the focus groups and hold the public outreach events before the end of the year. 

Committee members introduce themselves on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, during a public forum discussing the Altenheim, at Forest Park village hall. | ALEX ROGALS/Staff Photographer

Around 20 people, most of them residents of the Grove condominiums adjacent to the Altenheim site, attended the meeting. Only a handful of them spoke, expressing reservations about the process and wanting to make sure that Grove residents’ opinions were taken into account. While several of them said the process has been taking too long, there was also skepticism that the committee could really collect the public input it was looking for within two months, especially given colder weather and multiple national holidays distracting people. 

The village currently owns the now-vacant land to the north and south of the still-operational portions of Altenheim retirement community. Commissioners Maria Maxham and Jessica Voogd formed the 11-member advisory committee to study the previous plans for the property and help the village develop a more complete plan. Muse Community Design, a Chicago-based urban planning consultant, has been contracted to guide the process. 

According to the timeline shared during the Nov. 7 meeting, the committee is looking to complete public outreach by Dec. 23. During its Dec. 4 meeting, it will review sample RFPs to get a sense of what the village might put out, and work on the draft RFP during a Jan. 9, 2023 meeting. Muse director Kindy Kruller said this timeline isn’t necessarily set in stone, and it will depend on what the committee wants and what kind of feedback it will get.

Members of the public sit in on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, during a public forum discussing the Altenheim, at Forest Park village hall. | ALEX ROGALS/Staff Photographer

On Nov. 5, committee members gathered feedback from residents taking part in the Forest Park Wine Walk.  Kruller said 43 participants who identified themselves as Forest Parkers were surveyed about what they would be interested in seeing at the site. Some kind of service-related use got the largest percentage, followed by small commercial use, with some kind of a residential component and indoor community space coming in a close third and fourth. Tax revenue generation came in last on the list of priorities, but committee member David Gulyas noted that the two most popular priorities would be tax generators. 

During the Nov. 7 meeting, each committee member talked about the feedback they got – and several said they were surprised that there were residents who never heard of the open Altenheim property or thought that its future has long since been decided. They agreed that this made public outreach all the more important.

“There’s a lot of people who don’t know about it, or don’t know and understand the unique nature of the property,” said committee chair Marty Tellalian.

The committee decided to hold the open house at Roos because it’s near the center of the village and because it tends to be popular with Forest Parkers during the colder months. They decided to hold it on a weekday because they thought they’d get a better response from people who are heading home from work as opposed to relaxing during the weekend. Setting up a table at the post office came in response to resident suggestions. 

During the public comment section, Gene Armstrong, president of the Grove Midrise Condominium Association, said his organization would like to share a presentation of its internal surveys of Grove residents’ perspectives on the site.

“Let me put it to you this way — there’s no group of residents that will be more impacted by what happens to Altenheim then [The Grove residents],” he said.

Leah Shapiro, a 16-year Grove resident, argued there wasn’t much point in asking “random people on the street who don’t even know what the land is” about the site’s future, and focus on people in the site’s vicinity and the “possibilities that are realistic.”

Ann Armstrong questioned the timing of the public outreach.

“You got a lot of holidays in front of you, you got the weather in front of you,” she said. “If you’re really serious about getting the public input, you gotta give a chance to the public and understand that their attention is elsewhere for the next several weeks.”

For most current information about the committee’s work, including outreach announcements, visit altenheimfp.com