River Forest elected officials get points for resiliency when it comes to the elusive vision of a community center. We could dwell on the difficult history of the village and township governments at loggerheads over a potential merger and the future of the township-controlled River Forest Community Center/Civic Center Authority on Madison Street. We could relive the park district’s spectacular fail at gaining voter support to fund an additional community center.
Instead we will focus on the patient efforts of multiple elected and appointed officials to bring all parties to the table for a fresh discussion of options regarding a modern community center for the village. Led by the village government, we now have the village, parks, and township collaborating even as they await possible inclusion of the library and the elementary schools.
By July, the various bodies hope to have signed off on a request for proposals from consultants to study various options, including demolishing the current building at 8020 Madison, expanding the current building, or finding an alternative site in landlocked River Forest.
The tentative pact calls for that study to be wrapped up by the close of this year.
Our opinion is that the current facility — a repurposed textbook publishing office, for goodness sakes — is obsolete and that making major investments in redoing and expanding the building are for naught. Alternatively, finding another location, taking land off the tax rolls while leaving the original facility purposeless on Madison, makes no sense whatsoever.
We’re already saving the consultant time and the taxpayers money.
This is a moment. The park district tried and failed to partner with OPRF to site a new community center in Oak Park. But it seems to have access to $5 million to contribute to the project. The village government has a freshly-made Madison Street TIF in place for potential short and long-term funding. The township knows its existing building is a white elephant. And the rest of us know that public space in River Forest is at a premium.
We’re eager to see what calm and creative heads can come up with for River Forest’s future.