Forest Park nearing deal to nab Oak Park YMCA

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By SETH STERN

Oak Parkers used to watching retail stores decamp to Forest Park ought to get ready to watch the YMCA take the same path.

Forest Park officials have recently completed a site plan showing how the YMCA would be positioned on the village-owned Altenheim property just off Madison Street. That plan has received a tentative thumbs-up from both parties.

"It's not final, but its one that at least we're comfortable with...we feel very good about the last couple meetings," said YMCA President Scott Gaalaas. The last meeting with the YMCA board was on Sept. 14, and another is scheduled this week.

Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone said he expects a plan to be presented to that town's village council for preliminary discussion at a meeting in the near future. The plan, he said, was developed by Joe Antunovich, an architect who has worked on Focus/Taxman projects in Oak Park and Forest Park.

At this point, Calderone said, the plan is "a topical view of how the building would sit on the site" rather than a detailed rendering.

"It's a conceptual site plan to be used as a starting point," he said.

Though more homework is necessary before a finalized plan can be developed, he said that both Forest Park and the YMCA were committed to making the move happen.

"It's more a matter of how than if," he said.

Calderone said that price is on the backburner for the time being, though the village's original asking price was roughly $1 million per acre.

The plan calls for the village to keep the grove area in front of the property as permanent village owned green space, Calderone said.

Though details of the plan are being kept under wraps for the time being, Calderone said it contains provisions for about 250 parking spaces and a variety of athletic facilities.

Calderone said that the next step in the process will be getting the Forest Park village council and the public involved and determining whether the plan meets their approval.

The YMCA is currently located at 255 S. Marion St. in Oak Park. YMCA officials began considering a move after an expansion request was rejected by the Oak Park Zoning Board of Appeals in 2004. That expansion would have included a zero-depth entry warm water pool, ADA accessible locker rooms, family locker rooms, a new fitness center and space for after-school programs.

The Oak Park ZBA, however, said that the plan would have created a public safety hazard as pedestrians and cars would have needed to use a nearby alley to enter the parking lot.

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