It is not a surprise that Dominican University accepted a bid from Fenwick High School to purchase its 7-acre Priory Campus in River Forest. From our first reporting last spring that Dominican was looking to offload an aging facility it no longer needed as a satellite campus, university officials made plain that selling the site was not urgent and that garnering the highest price was not its goal.

It was looking for the right match. That match was most certainly going to be with a fellow Dominican religious order institution. Also interesting that there is a side deal between Fenwick and the Dominican Province of St. Albert the Great which allows Fenwick to convert its long-term lease for 11 acres of adjacent sports fields into a purchase from the province.

Still unclear just how much the Oak Park-based high school has put on the table. Or proposed terms. Fenwick, under its letter of agreement, also now has 120 days to continue its planning and due diligence. What we know is that Fenwick plans to retain the existing buildings on the site, a step that pleases the university. The use of the interior space is not finalized, though Fenwick has said it might be administrative or athletic  offices, arts and music programs, or for spiritual retreats.

The good news is that 18 acres of essentially open space in River Forest will be preserved with at least a semi-public use and that its ownership will be consolidated under a respected institution such as Fenwick.

Left out here is Oak Park and River Forest High School which made the first entreaty to Dominican after the Journal reported the site was on the block. OPRF’s ongoing and massive multi-year renovation of its Scoville Avenue campus was potentially going to be amended if the River Forest site were acquired. Now it may be back to the original drawing board. 

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