Forest Park is at its best when it collaborates. It might be multiple taxing bodies coming together on a project. Or nonprofits or advocacy groups working in alliance.
We may be at only the middle stage of discussions over the future of District 91’s Grant-White School on Randolph. The district, suffering from ongoing declines in student enrollment, closed the school last year.
This week it is holding a public meeting to consider options for its future use. That meeting was held after the Review’s print deadline. But as we report in today’s paper, discussions have been underway between the public elementary school district and village government. Mayor Rory Hoskins made an initial presentation to the school board at its recent meeting asking that it consider a shared use of the up-to-date facility as a youth center focused on programs for children from 12 to 14.
An impetus for the proposal is the substandard condition of the village’s Howard Mohr Community Center on Desplaines Avenue. That aged and unimproved facility currently hosts programs for seniors and youth, among other purposes.
Hoskins says the Mohr Center is in the midst of a thorough assessment of the facility as its future use is contemplated. Surprisingly, he also reflected negatively on the center’s location near the Blue Line el terminus, noting ongoing drug use nearby.
We think it is intriguing to consider a shared use of Grant-White, which melds both the school district and village’s efforts to support programs for tweens. There is already discussion of how other local theater and scout groups might contribute to the programming.
We’d make this note: Forest Park’s village government has long been stretched financially. One of the outcomes of being cash-strapped is that its buildings (and its infrastructure overall) have been allowed to deteriorate. Village hall, the fire station, the police station, the community center are all in fairly sad shape.
Contrast that with the taxpayer-funded investments over the past decade by the park district in its improving and expanding facilities, the library on Desplaines Avenue which is wrapping up a notable upgrade, and the elementary schools that have their issues but work in well maintained and modernized buildings.
Any time village government can find a partner to share a facility is a likely upgrade. And we’ll wait for the final assessment of the substandard community center building.
Reiger Park unstuck
We watched through the spring and summer as an initial burst of activity at reconstructing Reiger Park sputtered and halted. Now as we move into fall, a bottleneck has been removed in the form of permits from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and work should be underway soon.
Reiger, at 16th Street and Circle Avenue, is one of the village-owned pocket parks taken over by the park district a few years ago. The park district renovation plan is ambitious, community driven, and will be a notable upgrade.
We look forward to major progress before the snow falls.