This is the second in a series of three letters from the River Forest Park District Board of Commissioners to our taxpayers of River Forest, explaining our reasoning for the plans to purchase and develop the Oilily property, 103 Forest, as a park district recreation center.

In our first letter, we discussed the need for such a facility to satisfy our growing participant demand, and the desire expressed by the residents in the recent community survey. [Why River Forest needs a new rec center, Viewpoints, Oct. 7] In this letter we would like to speak to our reasons for choosing the 103 Forest property.

First and foremost, the park district board and staff believe that the existing structure can be developed to meet our needs with the least expenditure of capital funds. The building is made up of two structures: a two-story, 8,600-square-foot office building and a maintenance garage, which is planned to be removed. The office building is ideally sized to meet many of the park district’s space needs. The building’s structural design will allow the space to be configured with minimal construction costs.

To the north of the office building, the park district board is considering the addition of a high school-size basketball court with a suspended track. Additional facilities under consideration include a fitness center, platform tennis and an outdoor splash pad. The board is using the community meetings, the 2008 community survey results and staff input in determining the final components and design.

With the current revenue shortfalls being experienced by the Village of River Forest, some have questioned the prudence of removing another property from the tax rolls. While we are reluctant to do anything to reduce tax revenue, this property only provides limited commercial value as compared with properties on any of the three village retail corridors.

Its location, in a residential neighborhood and adjacent to Washington Park, makes for an ideal use as a recreation center.

If the park district is allowed by referendum to retain its current bonding authority, about $7 million will be available for the purchase and renovation of 103 Forest into a park district recreation center. The park district is entering into a contract to purchase the property at 103 Forest for $2.45 million, contingent on approval of a referendum on Feb. 2, 2010. This leaves $5.5 million available for facility development.

The park district held its third public meeting on Nov. 18, where the architects presented two alternate design concepts based on the previous public meetings. If you were unable to attend any of the public meetings, you can e-mail comments to the park district at

Dale Jones is a River Forest resident and president of the River Forest Park District Board of Commissioners. He submitted this on behalf of the board.

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