Tuesday evening, after our print deadline, the school board at Oak Park and River Forest High School will meet and is expected to sign a “letter of intent” to begin exploring the purchase of 7 acres of land at Division and Harlem in River Forest. The property, commonly known as the Dominican Priory, is owned by Dominican University.
In June we reported that Dominican had hired a commercial real estate firm to quietly shop the property, which it acquired in 2002, to house expanded graduate programs. Those needs have changed and the university is unwilling to spend money to upgrade the building on the campus. We also know the village of River Forest has made clear it will not rezone the property to allow residential or commercial development. That severely limits potential buyers.
At this moment there are nothing but questions regarding OPRF’s intentions. What use would they put the site to? Would they rehab the priory building and for what purpose? Is the building notable enough that it must be preserved?
We get that OPRF is totally landlocked at Scoville and Lake. We agree with Supt. Greg Johnson that this makes it a unique and rare opportunity. So while we will hear that all of this is simply exploratory, we know that Dominican is a motivated seller with very few prospects and that OPRF has an excess of cash on hand and a desire to grow its campus.
The challenge may be to slow this down enough to make sure OPRF’s plan is solid and thoroughly thought out.