With Aldi in hand, decision time for Park District of Oak Park

Will Lake Street site be a gymnastics center or maintenance?


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By Devin Rose

Staff Reporter

The sale of 25 Lake St., a former Aldi grocery store, to the Park District of Oak Park closed last week, leaving the park board to debate the building's future next month.

The board will discuss whether it's better to reduce overcrowding at the park district headquarters at 218 Madison St. by removing the gymnastics program or the building and grounds department. One of those programs will wind up in the long vacant Aldi store, said park district Executive Director Gary Balling.

The popular gymnastics program serves about 1,400 students each season. In July, when the Park District Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a contract for the purchase of the building, Balling said there were 162 people on the waitlist for gymnastics.

The current interior of 25 Lake St. is 10,800 square feet, Balling said. At 218 Madison, the gymnastics program uses 6,682 square feet while buildings and grounds uses 6,369 square feet.

The park district has spent several years looking for a solution to the cramped gymnastics space. The district is proud to point out that the gymnastics program is regularly profitable and could be more successful with added space. Beginning in 2002 the district undertook an infrastructure study. In 2006, they identified the amount of space needed, said Balling and Diane Stanke, manager of communications for the park district.

The district started looking at the 25 Lake St. property in February. It offered off-street parking, an affordable price and proximity to Stevenson Park, Balling said.

A new space for gymnastics could end the waiting list. More space for building and grounds would end the practice of having park district equipment stashed throughout the community. There is currently limited outside storage, Stanke said.

The district will determine the best use for the property, which it purchased for $880,000 — $100,000 less than what it expected to pay owing to possible soil contamination issues.

The park district board will meet as a Committee as a Whole on Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m. at 218 Madison St. to discuss options.

Reader Comments

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OP parent  

Posted: October 11th, 2011 10:40 PM

I'm really hoping we get the gymnastics program in the Aldi building. The gymnastics program is one of the gems of Oak Park and needs not just more space but better space. And it would be great to have a parking lot so that parents aren't double parking on Madison street or constantly risking tickets. The growth in the gymnastics program would be good for the PD but even better for the community.

Silly from Somewhere  

Posted: October 10th, 2011 11:27 AM

Al I can say is VOTE in the next election.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: October 10th, 2011 12:21 AM

Bell - I would not be surprised to find out the unwillingness to open the village's TIF books to the other taxing bodies is its inability to generate the detailed reports being requested. My bet is that if the taxing bodies were given the TIF information, it would not be long until they demanded an audit. Financial reporting is complex and very detailed. I have serious concerns that the TIF reports lack the required detail.


Posted: October 9th, 2011 10:42 PM

Does Silly always go to the post with Blinkers On?

Silly from Somewhere  

Posted: October 9th, 2011 9:38 PM

Dont VOTE for Milstein or ANYBODY associated with murtagh, coughlin or the like!! These people just want to tear down this great Village for no apparent reason. They never trust anyone and never will. Its just a big mirage. Dont believe the HYPE


Posted: October 9th, 2011 6:21 PM

Sooperdooper seems to have a unique insight into what's going on at Village Hall. Hopefully, we'll get some more scoops. Oak Park needs a whistleblower.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: October 9th, 2011 4:52 PM

Bell, you certainly know what is really taking place and the main players. Do you know if the person in charge of public works is in the group?


Posted: October 8th, 2011 10:35 PM

What John Murtagh is asking for will never happen as long as David Pope,Tom Barwin and Craig Lesner are running the show. These guys are too slick and know that taxpayers would be outraged to learn exactly how much of our tax dollars have been wasted and who has benefited from these deals. That's why they keep the TIF books locked away and allow developers to call the shots. It's an insiders game. These "Meet & Greet" sets with residents are a stunt to try to divert attention from the truth.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: October 8th, 2011 10:07 PM

Perhaps it is time for President Pope, or whichever board member he delegates, Village Manager Tom Barwin, and CFO Lesner to have a joint press conference with the local newspapers to give the residents a status report on all developments, a review of the 2012-3 economic outlook for Oak Park, and to respond to the many accusations of malfeasance in Oak Park government. I doubt that the four meetings scheduled by the board are going to ease the bitterness that has developed in the community.


Posted: October 8th, 2011 5:31 PM

You are part of the problem. It is the duty of a responsible citizen to demand accountability from our elected officials. Why on earth do you argue against transparency? It's our money they are spending. Are you this careless with your own funds? Do you ask for a second opinion when something is going to impact your life?

Silly from Somewhere  

Posted: October 8th, 2011 5:13 PM

Love it. Throw those words out there: Scams,crony,special deal, public corruption, Etc....Bell you clearly are a political person in opposition to the current leadership of all of our taxing bodies in OP. Atleast you are consistent. Consistent but wrong. Let the people decide.


Posted: October 8th, 2011 3:42 PM

The more I read from you the more I get the feeling that you are actually a shill for the people who pulling these scams. Are you afraid that people will learn that another crony got a special deal? Sounds like you don't care about public corruption as long they take care of you.

Silly from Somewhere  

Posted: October 8th, 2011 3:34 PM

Who brokered the deal? Really. Full disclosure. Someone made a professional commission. Oh No!!!! Bell I think you are paranoid.


Posted: October 8th, 2011 12:10 PM

We still don't know who brokered this deal and how much they were paid. Did the Park District see the Village Board get away with the fast and loose purchase of 1133 Westgate and figure they would like a piece of the action? Full disclosure, please.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: October 7th, 2011 5:03 PM

According to a historic Sanborn Map, on the west end of the existing Aldi lot, there was a 'Filling Station' with five gas tanks (pumps), a 'Tire Shop' building and a 'Greasing and Washing' building. At the east end, there was a 'Garage' building w/ 50 ga. gasoline tank, and a 'Auto Sales & Garage' building w/ a 1,000 ga. underground gasoline tank. The current water supply line from Chicago to Central Pumping Station runs along North Blvd.


Posted: October 7th, 2011 2:37 PM

Good question,j.oakpark. My guess is that it will take up to 2 years to rid the site of contaminated soil. Figure at least $2,000,000 to rehab the building. We're still in the dark regarding the details of this purchase. Who brokered the deal? Same guys who scammed us with 1133 Westgate? Why was Aldi's allowed to sell food at a facility that stands on poisoned ground? How come the Park District is unable to tell us exactly what they plan to do with this site? Very fishy operation!


Posted: October 7th, 2011 12:14 PM

How long do you think it will take to re-develop this property and at what cost? The old gas station, former convenience store so to be theater on Ridgeland with contaminated soil has been undergoing soil remediation and renovation for several years now. Will someone from the park district please weigh in?

Silly from Somewhere  

Posted: October 7th, 2011 10:27 AM

VMA has nothing to do with this. Try to connect some other dots. No big trucks in the park districts "fleet" Maybe a pick up or two or maybe a tractor? They are not a construction company? Where do people think up this stuff?

eastsider2 from oak park  

Posted: October 7th, 2011 9:57 AM

@east side res...gymnastics facility would be great. @Watson...absolutely NOT happy about a facility for trucking equipment. let's not welcome people through the east entrance of OP with a fleet of village trucks!


Posted: October 7th, 2011 9:48 AM

Of course you would feel that way being as you serve as a tool and fool for the VMA. The tab for this deal will exceed $2,000,000.

Silly from Somewhere  

Posted: October 6th, 2011 11:15 PM

I wouldn't see why not. It would then free up much needed space at the current Madison location and hence allow for more space for gymnastics there. Win Win, however you look at it.


Posted: October 6th, 2011 11:09 PM

Hey, East Side Resident. Will you be just as thrilled if the Park District decides to use the building as a storage facility?

east side resident  

Posted: October 6th, 2011 10:41 PM

I'm thrilled that a building that has been empty for almost 2 years will be back in use - and hopefully used by one of the few park district programs that actually makes money! Expanding into this building has the potential to open gymnastics classes to more kids (now there are always waiting lists) and, given the demand, bring in more income for the park district. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Silly from Somewhere  

Posted: October 6th, 2011 10:07 PM

alberg, last time I checked the Village didnt have any say as to the transaction between the Park Dist and Aldi! The Village WOULD have a say and did regarding the Park Dist buying Village owned parcels.

Silly from Here  

Posted: October 6th, 2011 10:04 PM

Can people now understand the $975K cost for the Westgate building?

alberg from Oak Park  

Posted: October 6th, 2011 9:53 PM

How stupid can we get??? Take another retail property off the tax rolls while FORCING other properties to include retail at locations where no sane retailer will go. The only thing our public officials can think about is to spend OUR money to make a name for themselves. No wonder my taxes went UP 20% and my property value went DOWN 40%.

just what we need from Oak Park  

Posted: October 6th, 2011 8:50 PM

Another prime retail address off the tax roll and unavailable for strenghtening the Lake Street retail corridor. Way to go, OP.

so smart  

Posted: October 6th, 2011 8:10 PM

A 10% discount, since the soil beneath the property needs to be remdiated?? How could anyone know that the cost will be only 10% of the purchase price?? And, why is the Park District buying property as we hit the second dip of the Great Recession?? Oh, oh, bonds will be issued (indebetness increased) so no worries, your taxes will not be increased. Welcome to JOak Park, SIllinnois!

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