Park District Plan For Mental Health Land ‘What We Have Needed’: Reps.

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TINLEY PARK, IL — State legislators are praising the Tinley Park-Park District for its vision for the vacant Tinley Mental Health Center land, calling it, “the only plan we have seen to revitalize the area and create a greater good for the community and its neighbors.”

In a letter sent to the park district by State Rep. Debbie Meyers-Mart, Justin Slaughter, and Bob Rita, they call the district’s plans “just what we have needed there.”

“We are proud to represent Tinley Park in Springfield because we know all who have driven by the eyesore of this property for years have wished for something better,” the group wrote. “Now we know it can become a reality.”

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The park district earlier this month revealed its plans for the property at 7400-7600 W. 183rd St., with hopes of transforming the long-vacant property into a hub of athletic fields, track and field facilities, a domed sports complex and open recreational space. The park district has formally bid on the property, and detailed its proposal for recreational space at the site, which begins with 90 acres in the first phase of development and includes playground and sports facilities for people living with special needs.

“The Park District’s plan is the only plan we have seen to revitalize the area and create a greater good for the community and its neighbors,” the group wrote. “Community park districts like yours bring people together to enjoy the outdoors, build stronger relationships with our friends and neighbors, and create a welcoming environment for anyone who visits.”

Find out what’s happening in Tinley Parkwith free, real-time updates from Patch.

The group also decried the Village’s voiced opposition to the park district’s potential acquisition of the land.

“We are disappointed to learn that some in the administration of the Village of Tinley Park do not share our enthusiasm for your plans,” they wrote. “We join you and many residents locally in urging the Village to work with all of us to redevelop this site into the Park District’s vision of recreational and green space. We need to be united to take full advantage of this exciting opportunity for Tinley Park and the south suburbs.”

The letter is the latest development inwhat’s becoming a contentious relationship between the park district and the Village of Tinley Park, with the Tinley Mental Health Center land in the middle. The park district last month declared its intent to pursue the land as a sole entity, a move that stunned the Village, which has been trying for a decade to acquire the land.

Village Manager Pat Carr said the park district’s decision to pursue the land was contrary to previously discussed efforts to work together to pursue and develop the land.

The revelation of the park district’s plans last month caught the Village off-guard, Carr said, adding it was the first time he had heard any details of what the park district would like to do with the land, should they get it. The Village’s most recent attempt to purchase the land—280 acres on the corner of 183rd Street and Harlem Avenue—at a price tag of $4.5 million fell through as recently as February 2022.

The legislators wrote that the park district had been working on the plans for “several years.”

“We understand the Park District has worked carefully and thoughtfully to develop these plans for several years,” they wrote. “Your vision will meet many needs in the community: for families with children of all ages who now travel all over for sporting and recreation events; for those special needs; and for many residents and visitors who enjoy green space and nature.

“We cannot wait to see you turn this blighted property into such a special place.”

The Village contends that the park district does not have the means necessary to remediate the property, with costs to do so estimated at nearly $12.4 million. The land is in a tax increment financing district, Mayor Mike Glotz has previously said, so any revenue raised through its redevelopment could help offset the Village’s cost to remediate.

The Village has sought ownership of the land for years, and has long floated proposals for its use, at one point touting the idea of a racino—a combined racetrack and casino—and later considering redevelopment as a 55-and-older, 400 single-family home housing complex. The former was nixed in October 2019, when Gov. J.B. Pritzker canceled the state’s sale of the property. Carr and Glotz both say the land is a pawn in a “political game,” with legislators such as Sen. Michael Hastings (D) and Rep. Bob Rita (D) interfering in the sale.

The state in late October listed the land among its surplus properties, opening it up for parties to declare interest by the end of November. Burt Odelson, a lawyer with Odelson, Sterk, Murphey, Frazier & McGrath representing the park district, said its officials spoke up once it was listed. The park district’s interest stunned Glotz and other officials, who said they’d always hoped to first acquire the property, then work with agencies such as the park district to flesh out plans for it.

The Village has hopes of using portions of the land in different ways, in part for a sportsplex and multi-purpose athletic fields, and also to centralize all Village resources, moving Village Hall, the police department and more to one location, Glotz said.

Carr has previously said the land is not zoned for what the park district intends, noting, “when we created this TIF, the park district was involved in this, and they knew exactly what needed to go there to generate revenue and jobs for the residents of Tinley.”

Representatives Meyers-Martin, Slaughter and Rita wrote the park district’s plans will check several boxes for the community.

“A regional sports complex with numerous athletic fields, track and field facilities, and playgrounds would provide wonderful possibilities for Tinley Park to serve as a hub for youth sports across Chicagoland and the greater Midwest region,” they wrote. “The complex would become home to much larger sports tournaments at all levels, including high schools, for many sports, including soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, football, baseball, softball, and others. This expansion would draw numerous visitors to Tinley Park to stay at the Village’s hotels, dine at restaurants, visit entertainment venues, and contribute to its local economy.”

The State will ultimately decide who gets the land, a process that will last into the new year.


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December 19, 2022 at 12:10PM

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