District 200 expects to begin exploration of acquiring seven acres at Division and Harlem from Dominican University. The athletic fields outside the lined area are under a long-term lease between the Dominican Friars religious order and Fenwick High School in Oak Park. (Goggle maps)

District 200 school board officials are exploring the possibility of buying Dominican University’s Priory Campus, a 7.6-acre site in River Forest that in the past was used to house the university’s graduate degree programs. Acquiring the land could help alleviate some of the challenges the high school district is facing with future renovation projects, said Karin Sullivan, district spokesperson.

“We are a landlocked campus, which has been a huge challenge,” Sullivan said. “We have a very old facility, over 100 years old in some sections, and we have a lot of facility needs. And having this extra parcel of land would potentially allow us to address some of those needs.”

“Specifically what they are, we don’t know that yet,” she said.

The school board met Tuesday evening – after Wednesday Journal’s print deadline. It was expected to sign a letter of intent with Dominican which would begin a negotiation that could end in the purchase of Priory Campus, 7200 Division St. in River Forest. The site has been quietly on the market for some time as Dominican’s use of the facility has withered over past years. It is about two miles away, or a six-minute drive, from the high school, 201 N. Scoville Ave. in Oak Park. 

The school was drawing up the letter of intent on Monday. It was to be finalized and  shared after the meeting, Sullivan said. She said the letter of intent allows “us to begin formal negotiations to potentially purchase the Priory Campus” and learn more about the property’s condition.

“It essentially gives us time to do some fact-finding,” Sullivan said. “What is the condition of the buildings there? How is it zoned? Are there health/safety issues? Are there any environmental issues that need to be remediated?”

Since 2002, Dominican University has owned the property known as Priory Campus. The River Forest-based university bought the land from the Dominican Friars religious order. The Priory building, which sits on the site, is approximately 102,941 square feet. The building was constructed in 1924 and expanded in 1964.

Around the campus, there are athletic fields, which have long been leased by Fenwick High School from the Dominican Friars.

“We haven’t specified a demand price [for Priory Campus],” said Mark Titzer, vice president of finance and administration at the university.

DU recently partnered with Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), a real estate company in Chicago, as its commercial broker, Titzer said. In a previous interview with Wednesday Journal, former DU President Donna Carroll said JLL had initially valued the site at $8 million.  

“We are interested in hearing from potential developers or bidders, other third parties,” Titzer said.

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