One might think that the idea of building a mini-Ravinia in Forest Park would be the notion of dreamers, not doers. Yet the idea of a Cultural Park on the village-owned Altenheim property lives on and continues to rise, precisely because this is a big concept being pushed by some mighty practical people.
The latest evidence was last week when Ralph DiFebo, who forwarded this idea back in 2015 and is now chair of the citizen-led village committee on the topic, reported that his committee will recommend that Forest Park sell off the northernmost portion of the 11-acre open space as a way to fund critical initial steps for the project.
Specifically, the ad hoc committee has concluded that selling the portion of the land nearest to Madison Street to a commercial entity would fund the early retirement of the remaining debt on the village government's 2001 purchase of the site, would pay for the demolition of the derelict chapel and other outbuildings on the site, and fund a thorough and professional feasibility study on the music and culture venue concept.
We're not ready to sign off on this concept yet. How much selling a portion of the parcel would raise is critical to understand, as is what would be a complementary commercial use for that parcel. But to us, this suggestion from the music venue's strongest advocates makes clear this committee has a practical eye on how this ambitious project might be accomplished.
This latest proposal came on the same night that a more general National Park Service study of potential land use options at the Altenheim was reported to the village council. The study, undertaken at no cost to the village, made clear that residents and stakeholders are determined that this jewel of open space needs to be preserved and enhanced for the use of the community.
That is the same instinct that led Mayor Anthony Calderone and past village council members to take the audacious step of purchasing the open space to prevent a residential development. Now the village is planning a town hall meeting for early in 2019 to gather more community input on the Cultural Park concept and next steps.
The path becomes clearer. This land, or, at least, the greatest portion of it, must be dedicated to the recreational and open space needs of our village and the wider community.
Thanks, Historical Society
At its Veterans Day event, the Historical Society of Forest Park offered its official appreciation to two local entities. The Review was honored to be included, along with Lynn and Marty Sorice.
This is a determined and feisty group that ignores obstacles in its path and just keeps celebrating and honoring the history of this fascinating village.