As Friends Park plans proceed, price eats into funds
"The Park House," 233 Linden Ave., served as a free house for Glencoe Park District executive directors from 1961 through 2012. |Irv Leavitt~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 11, 2013 6:47AM
Is it too late to mount a public fundraising campaign to rebuild Friends Park?
Is it too early for the Glencoe Park District to consider selling the house long used as a free home for its executive directors?
Those two questions Monday night became part of the Friends process, as much as choosing playground apparatus and handicapped-accessible surfaces for the village’s key uptown park at Vernon Avenue and Tudor Court.
The project price, once estimated at under $200,000, now is a little over twice that, at $404,000 (including a 10 percent contingency). The latest plan, revealed at a Special Projects and Facilities Committee meeting, solves new problems. It’s more spread out, allowing better sightlines of roaming toddlers.
About $100,000 would have to be scraped out of capital fund accounts, Interim Executive Director Steve Nagle said Monday. That may mean a dearth of non-Friends improvements in the coming year. More may be revealed about that at a district board meeting at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 15 at the Takiff Center, 999 Green Bay Road.
Committee head Trent Cornell thinks it’s a good time to consider selling the three-bedroom “Park House” at 233 Linden Ave. He said Tuesday that he and the other commissioners are “very close” to choosing a new executive director for the district, with the field reduced to two, and the compensation package, as expected, will not include the house.
It did for the last executive director, Don Van Arsdale, and others, going back more than 50 years. Yet, a 2012 legal opinion makes it tough to use the house, unless the district or the employee wants to pay taxes on its use as income.
Cornell said he’s been told, informally, that the Park House may be worth $500,000 to $600,000. The district has spent about $100,000 in recent renovations.
It was moved from the area of Central School’s expansion in 1961 to the northwest corner of a relatively small park that runs northwest from the corner of Green Bay Road and Jackson Avenue. That passive park, sometimes known as Linden Park, is one of several little-used, largely decorative small parks that don’t appear on the map of parks on the district’s website.
Cornell said there are three choices for the house: sell it, lease it or leave it. Another old district-owned house, on Green Bay Road at Harbor Street, has been left to deteriorate for years, he notes.
The land beneath hasn’t been cleared and added to a similar next-door park, he said, because there’s always something else to spend the $12,000 demolition cost upon.
For now, however, the Linden Avenue house is too kept-up to knock down, he said.
Fellow Commissioner Robert Kimble asked Monday, “Does the village really want to sell off the property?
“I don’t think the community really wants to.”
He instead wants to delay the rebuilding of Friends Park – shorn of major apparatus since last fall – for a year or so while fundraising is allowed to occur.
He said, just as “younger parents” helped raise money for the last refit, in 1995, a new crop of younger parents might step in now.
Caucus-slated commissioner candidate Steve Gaines, who was involved in the last fundraiser as well as a subsequent Watts Ice Center campaign, agreed Monday.
“Whether it’s $10 or $1,000, everybody would be excited to take ownership,” Gaines said.
Audience member Stephanie Boron said that she was one of those “young parents.” She might want to buy a $100 brick, but not much more.
“We pay a lot of taxes,” she said. “I don’t know how much more fundraising we’re willing to do.”
Nagle said that the recent public survey on the future of Friends Park resulted in the retrieval of a score of names of people who might be interested in fundraising. Cornell said they should have at it, but there was a limit to how much a campaign should delay the process, and it was fast approaching. Board President Max Retsky also opposed waiting too long.
Gaines’ fellow slated candidate Seth Palatnik told the commissioners that residents deserved the presence of a complete uptown park sooner than later.
“I really think we should try to have a park this summer,” he said.
The district is continuing to seek input to refine the plans, and another opportunity is the Jan. 15 Board meeting.
John Faris, general manager of Writers Theatre, to the east of the park, already likes the progress, he said Monday. His favorite envisioned amenity was the stage area, where he could picture theater personnel conducting story time.
“We’re really excited by this design,” he said. “Anything that stretches a kid’s imagination is a good thing.”
A schematic of the most recent plan can be found at www.pioneerlocal.com.~.