In baseball the cliché about a surprising outcome is, “That’s why we play the games.” In reporting the equivalent is, “That’s why we make the calls.”
As we reported out a story this week on discussions Dominican University is having about the possible eventual sale of its Priory Campus at Harlem and Division, we anticipated a specific response from the River Forest village government.
The expected shorthand was something along the lines of “Yippee!”
River Forest has long groaned under the amount of non-taxable property two private universities put on its rolls. There’s Concordia. There’s Dominican’s main campus. And then there is the 20 acres of the old Dominican Priory property, which 20 years ago was partially sold to the university (7 acres), to the park district and leased to Fenwick for athletic fields.
But Cathy Adduci, village president, was clear and candid in a Monday interview that River Forest has no intention of changing the current zoning on the Priory property to allow either residential or commercial development.
The village and its residents, she said, like the current green space and think the somewhat decrepit Priory building is “significant.” And she said, the current zoning and the village’s recently updated Comprehensive Plan are aligned on how that very large parcel should be treated.
New commercial development in River Forest, she said, will be limited to North Avenue, Lake Street and Madison Street.
Of course, effectively taking private developers out of the mix for a possible sale of the Dominican share of the site strongly limits the school’s sales options.
For its part, Dominican’s outgoing president, Donna Carroll, said the school is not surprised by the village’s stance. And she said the discussions about the future of the Priory Campus have been underway for a long while as the school’s need for classroom space and student housing have shifted. There is, she said, no rush to come to a resolution.
An interesting contrast between Oak Park and River Forest here. In recent years Oak Park has pushed hard to develop most every available parcel, to put land back on the tax rolls and to allow fairly dense residential uses. River Forest, always with a different vibe than Oak Park, seems clear in its priorities and in the desires of its residents to not crowd the village.