The March 6, 2023 Altenheim Committee meeting | Credit: Igor Studenkov/Staff Reporter

The village government’s Altenheim Committee recommends turning the village-owned portion of the historic Altenheim property into a largely residential development with some green space on the north and south portions of the property. 

The document, which was finalized and approved during the committee’s March 6 meeting, recommends what the village should include in a Request For Proposal document for would-be developers. Committee chair Marty Tellalian emphasized repeatedly that it would be up to the village council to decide whether it would follow through on these recommendations. During the Feb. 28 mayoral candidate debate held at Grant-White elementary school, Mayor Rory Hoskins said he wouldn’t approve anything Altenheim-related until after the April 4 election.  

The recommendations echo some of the stakeholders and committee member proposals presented on Dec. 3, 2022 and Jan. 9, respectively. It calls for keeping the triangle-like north section of the property as a public recreational space, building homes that comply with R-2 zoning between the south edge of the current retirement community and the Altenheim cemetery, adding denser housing at the southeast corner to take advantage of its proximity to the Forest Park CTA and suburban Pace bus terminal. It recommends allowing commercial use, but only if it’s a small business such as a coffee shop or drycleaners.

The Altenheim Committee was created last June to suggest the best uses for the site based on a review of past proposals, conversations with local stakeholders and public feedback. The committee was scheduled to complete its work in February – in fact, the Feb. 6 meeting was originally supposed to be its last meeting, but the committee decided to do another round of revisions and review them on Feb. 20. That meeting was cancelled because the village hall was closed due to Presidents Day.

Tellalian told the Review that he made a number of revisions – which were marked in red on the document shared during the March 6 meeting – with input from other committee members. All committee members got paper copies. The village set up a large TV monitor to display the document, which was meant to allow members of the public to follow along as the committee made final changes. Toward the end of the meeting, some committee members gave their paper copies to members of the public in attendance, and Tellalian shared a copy with the Review. 

Kindy Kruller, an urban planning consultant working with the committee, told the Review that the final version of the plan will be available online by March 20. Tellalian said that it would be up to the village to decide whether they want to disseminate the document, and whether the public would get any further input before the village puts out an RFP.

For the most part, the changes adopted during the March 6 meeting either strengthened or clarified the existing language or corrected some errors. 

While the entire property is currently zoned R-3, the restrictive covenant the property is under calls for less dense R-2 zoning. The document recommends rezoning the property as a Planned Unit Development, which allows deviation from the existing zoning, but would also give the village more control over what goes on the property, and would require the Altenheim retirement facility’s board of directors to approve anything that doesn’t follow the restrictive covenant. The committee still recommended keeping any housing except on the “extreme south and southeast” of the property within R-2 parameters – in other words, building either townhomes, row houses, two-flats or single-family homes on most of the property and taller, denser buildings closer to the Forest Park Blue Line terminal. 

The documents recommended requiring the developer to mitigate the climate impacts of their proposals by adopting environmentally friendly and energy-efficient design features.  The developer would be asked to take the multi-use bike/walking path planned for the east edge of the property, as well as the three existing Pace bus routes and CTA trains into account. 

The committee recommended leaving a “significant portion of the property” open for public use. For the south corner of the property, the document recommended “walking paths and pollinator gardening.” The document also asks the developer to leave the door open for the Park District of Forest Park to manage the public spaces. While the park district indicated that it was too busy with its own projects over the next couple of years to participate in the near term, it left the door open for future participation. 

Committee member Kurt Hansen said that, while he was satisfied with the work the committee did, he was leery of what might happen next.

“I think everybody did a great job,” he said. “This doesn’t mean anything is going to happen based off of anything we talked about.”

Former village commissioner Chris Harris attended the meeting. He told the Review that he was disappointed with the document, because he felt it went against residents’ wishes for the property to become a public space.

“Their outcome is they want to see some kind of development — to me, that’s a slap in the face to the residents,” he said.