Housing, park space proposed for Park Ridge Youth Campus site
The Park Ridge Recreation and Park District and a local developer are interested in purchasing property belonging to the Park Ridge Youth Campus, 733 N. Prospect Ave. The facility recently closed. | Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 29, 2012 6:36AM
New homes combined with open park space on property now owned by the Park Ridge Youth Campus are part of preliminary plans introduced by the Park Ridge Recreation and Park District and a private developer.
The Park District, partnering with Park Ridge-based developer Marc Elliott, is eyeing roughly 60 percent of the 11-acre parcel at 733 N. Prospect Ave., which until the past spring had housed teenage girls with behavioral and emotional issues. Elliott, who owns three vacant Washington Avenue parcels that once belonged to the Youth Campus, is looking to build residential homes on the remaining southernmost half of the campus.
Park District Executive Director Gayle Mountcastle, stressing that plans are still “very preliminary,” said the Park District has submitted a proposal for “a community park that will include indoor and outdoor recreational opportunities.” Tentative plans call for moving administrative functions from the Maine Park Leisure Center, 2701 W. Sibley Ave., to Wohlers Hall, one of several buildings on the Youth Campus site, and using at least three other buildings for classes, likely gymnastics and music.
Kevin Buggy, co-chairman of the Park Ridge Youth Campus Board, cautioned that the board has not accepted plans brought forward by the Park District or Elliott. He added that the Youth Campus has received proposals from several other interested parties, as well.
“At this point in time, from the Youth Campus’ point of view, we have not made a final decision on any of the proposals,” Buggy said. “Nothing has been finalized.”
Buggy, who would not share what other ideas have been submitted for the property, indicated that the Youth Campus Board expects to make a decision in early-July as to the proposal it will accept.
During a June 21 Park Board meeting, Commissioner Mel Thillens told the board their proposal was “favored” by the Youth Campus.
“They’re happy with the proposal,” he said.
Mountcastle said the Park District views the land, which is largely open space, as a “very valuable community asset.” According to a formula developed by the National Recreation and Park Association, Park Ridge is deficient in open space based on its population, Mountcastle said, and 70 percent of residents who answered a survey indicated that maintaining open space is important.
Under the Park District’s preliminary plan some of the cottages on the campus would be torn down, Mountcastle said. The future of Solomon Cottage, listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and now used by the Park Ridge Historical Society, is still not known.
Though the Park District has been in discussions with Elliott, both purchases would have separate agreements with the Youth Campus if they move forward, Mountcastle said.
Elliott said he believes open park land is an important part of the envisioned development.
If the Park District’s proposal is accepted the matter is expected to go to referendum in order for voters to decide if several million dollars in bonds should be issued for the land purchase and building rehabilitation.
“It will be a decision by the voters if they feel this is a priority for the community,” Mountcastle said. “We certainly think it’s a legacy property and something of value for the community for years to come.”
Mountcastle would not share how much the Park District has offered to pay for the 6.5 acres it is considering. Buggy said the land, which first began housing orphaned girls in 1908, has not been formally put up for sale.
The Park District and Elliott are also interested in determining the condition of the soil and whether an underground water source believed to exist there will affect the use of the land.