The Park Ridge Park District is moving ahead with a modified proposal for the now-vacant Park Ridge Youth Campus, this time planning to use the entire 11.4-acre site for open space and recreational facilities.
Parks officials shared the new plans with residents at an informational meeting at the Park Ridge Senior Center on Tuesday. After collecting feedback from people at the meeting and other residents, the plan will be presented to the park district Board of Commissioners at their Nov. 15 meeting.
Earlier: Original plan was to buy half the property
The board must decide by Jan. 18 whether to ask residents for a referendum on the April 23 ballot to raise property taxes to buy and renovate the property. They must also decide how much money to ask for, Park District Executive Director Gayle Mountcastle said.
Land will cost $6.4 million, plus improvements
According to a question-and-answer sheet the park district passed out at the meeting, it will cost $6.4 million to buy the property from the Children’s Home + Aid Society, which merged with the Park Ridge Youth Campus earlier this year. Both child welfare agencies provided similar services, offering residential care to teenagers.
Renovating some of the buildings, demolishing others and developing a park with a football/lacrosse field, playground and splash pad and outdoor performing arts space, along with other amenities, is estimated to cost $6.6 million.
When the park district first met with residents to share plans for the site in July, it intended to split the property – and the purchase price – with developer Marc Elliott, keeping about eight acres and letting the rest go for development. Since then, it has decided to try to purchase the entire site on its own.
Earlier: Park district does not decide on recommendation
‘“We had so many people coming to us and saying they wanted us to do the whole thing,” Mountcastle said.
One chance to pass the referendum
The change in plans also pushed the proposed referendum from November to April. If the referendum fails, or if the park district abandons the project for another reason, Children’s Home + Aid will sell to another buyer, most likely a developer, Mountcastle said.
“This is our one shot at this,” she said. “This is the last remaining parcel of open space this size in Park Ridge.”
Mountcastle said Park Ridge falls woefully short of the recommendations of national planning associations when it comes to the amount of open space it has, and park district programs and facilities are bursting at the seams.
Forty people come out to hear presentation
The presentation won some support from the roughly 40 people who attended, including Michael and Leni Collet.
“We ought to have more places for kids to run and play and not run into a fence, like in their backyard,” Leni Collet said.
Her husband, Michael Collet, pointed out that having more parks will help increase property values for residents of Park Ridge.
But others were not convinced. Ed McCarthy said it makes no sense to keep the property off the tax rolls at a time when the City of Park Ridge is in a financial hole and when some senior citizens are having to move because they can’t keep up with the property taxes.
“If (the park district) had $6 million in their checkbook, fine, they should go for it,” McCarthy said. “But they don’t, so they’re going to get it from me and everyone else.”