COVID and the Altenheim site

Opinion: Editorials

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If the dismal state of village government finances in the ongoing COVID-19 scourge were some partial incentive to move quickly to offer portions of the village-owned Altenheim property up for sale to developers, well the scourge has found a new way to bite the village. Just completed, a village-ordered real estate appraisal of the 11 acres running south off Madison Street put a stunningly lowball value on the green space.

Forest Park bought the land in 2001 for $3.65 million with the expressed purpose of keeping it open and green. Three years later two-thirds of the property was appraised for $5.3 million. Now, in the COVID summer of 2020 and with an appraisal that has village officials flustered and mad, the entire parcel has been valued at $1.83 million.

Selling off major chunks of the Altenheim for townhome developments based on that sort of land value is not going to solve the village's financial shortfall. Not nearly.

The village can contest the appraisal, which it paid for, but it seems unlikely to get juiced to even a breakeven of the $3.5 million originally paid and on which there are still two years of loan payments to be made.

Here's the good news: The low valuation is going to slow down or stop for now discussions of a rush to development, led by Mayor Rory Hoskins. And that will allow what appears to be a fairly intense community desire for more dialogue and planning, for an emphatic guarantee that open space be the core use of this last remaining green parcel in Forest Park.

Time to listen. Time to make a plan that starts with open space and allows some development that does not overshadow the public use. Inexplicably, Forest Park has waited 19 years to drive a plan for this key parcel. Now is not the time to rush. And certainly not in the pit of COVID's real estate recession.

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