The Forest Park Village Council broadly agreed to work with Tim Brangle, head of the Chicago Consultants Studio development consulting firm and a member of the River Forest Economic Development Commission, to flesh out the Altenheim Advisory Committee’s recommendations for redeveloping the village-owned portions of the historic Altenheim property. 

Altenheim proprosal

The Altenheim Committee was assembled in June 2022 by commissioners Maria Maxham and Jessica Voogd to suggest the best uses for the site, based on a review of past proposals, conversations with local stakeholders and public feedback. The Chicago-based Muse Community + Design consulting firm helped with the process. While it finalized its report during the March 6 meeting, the village council didn’t officially discuss those recommendations until the May 22 meeting. 

It was during this meeting that Courtney Kashima, Muse’s founding principal, said that she and village officials have been talking with Brangle about “putting the meat on those bones” and developing a more solid vision based on the committee recommendations, but she wanted the council’s OK before going any further. 

While none of the commissioners objected outright, Voogd argued that the process so far hasn’t had much public input — which Maxham agreed with. Voogd also questioned why she wasn’t involved in those discussions in spite of being the commissioner of Public Property and thus responsible for overseeing all village-owned land. Mayor Rory Hoskins responded that they wanted to keep the number of officials in the discussions to a minimum to avoid triggering the Open Meetings Act, and he later told the Review that he felt Maxham was a better fit for those discussions.

The committee report called 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, and adding denser housing at the southeast corner to take advantage of its proximity to the Forest Park CTA and suburban Pace bus terminal. It recommended allowing commercial use, but only if it’s a small business such as a coffee shop or dry cleaner.

The committee also recommended selling a few pieces of the property back to Altenheim to even out its portion of the property. 

While the version approved during the March 6 meeting was text-only, the version shared with the village council included two concept drawings of what that might look like. The main difference is that one shows green space along Van Buren Street and at the southeast corner, while the other replaces that greenery with denser buildings.

Kashima told the council that committee member Steve Rouse recommended Muse reach out to Brangle. She said she was impressed with the work his firm did advising the Cook County Board of Commissioners on reusing the historic Cook County Hospital and its work on revamping Hyde Park’s Harper Court shopping plaza. 

Maxham wondered if Brangle would be able to look beyond the Altenheim property and consider improvements for a broader area — something that several Altenheim Commitee members suggested in the past. Kashima replied that he would.

Hoskins wondered if it would be possible to look at some grant funding to pay for Altenheim-related costs. Kashima said the federal Inflation Reduction Act gives municipalities “a window of opportunity” to get federal funding, and she would research what might fit the bill. 

Voogd pressed Kashima for details on who was involved in conversations with Brangle and wondered why she had no idea this was even going on until the May 22 meeting. The consultant said it started out with a series of phone calls with Steve Glinke, director of Health & Safety. Later, the three had an in-person meeting, and another meeting that included Maxham. 

Hoskins said he was conscious of the fact that any meeting involving more than two elected officials would have to be a public meeting under the Open Meetings Act. He told the Review in a follow-up interview that he was involved in the discussions, and he decided on Maxham rather than Voogd because, at the time, she served as a commissioner of Public Health & Safety, and “I think that [the Altenheim Committee] corresponds more to Public Health & Safety than Public Property.”

Voogd also said that the Altenheim Committee didn’t conduct much outreach to the general public beyond an online survey and last fall’s Wine Walk, and argued that there should be more public engagement going forward. She also pointed to the fact that while committee members handed out printed copies of their final recommendations during the March 6 meeting, the copy was never uploaded to the committee website, so it wasn’t available for public review until the May 22 meeting packet was posted online on
May 19. 

“I’m asking the council,” she said, “When do we want to listen to our constituents?” 

Hoskins disputed that, arguing that 10 public meetings “was public engagement,” a comment that elicited jeers from some residents in the audience. He also pointed to the fact that the committee consulted several area stakeholder groups. 

Maxham agreed that the committee fell short on public input, but argued that the best time to get that would be when Brangle fleshes out the idea.

“I agree with Commissioner Voogd. I think we need a lot more public input,” she said. “I think that’s the role the committee declined to take on beyond public meetings.”

Maxham also said that, whatever plan the council approves, it has to be something all commissioners and Hoskins agree to.

“If it was causing a [disagreement] among council members, I don’t think it would be best for the village,” she said.