Park District has an interest in the Tinley Park Psychiatric Center property

The Tinley Park Park District is interested in purchasing the former Tinley Park Mental Health Center and adjacent Howe Developmental Center, properties the village has long eyed for acquisition and redevelopment.

At a special meeting Monday, Park Board members directed the district’s newly hired law firm to notify the Illinois Department of Central Management Services of the park district’s interest in acquiring the state-owned property.

Tinley Park is also in negotiations with the state to acquire the 280-acre property northwest of Harlem Avenue and 183rd Street.

Village officials who were present at the meeting said they were surprised by the move and claimed Tinley Park had already invested resources to try to buy the site and hire consultants. Village officials previously said so had a tentative deal with the state to purchase the property for $4.5 million.

Tinley Park village manager Pat Carr said park district officials have never expressed any interest in the property.

The property was originally envisaged for development as a combination Trotting track and casino.

Mayor Mike Glotz said plans being considered by the village for redevelopment, including a sports complex, could bring Tinley Park $7 million to $10 million annually in tax revenue.

“We have to get the property together as a city,” said Glotz.

Glotz also said the site is not designated for a park or other recreational use, which the village would need to change. The property is now zoned for uses such as offices and light industry.

“You can’t do anything with the property anyway,” he told park board members.

The state announced excess real estate, including the psychiatric hospital, in late October, giving interested buyers until the end of November to express their interest.

The village sent its expression of interest Nov. 3, said Paul O’Grady, the village attorney.

Park Board Member Lisa O’Donovan said the district is “exploring our options in terms of location.”

“Our hope is to build a partnership with the village,” she said.

The park district has not held discussions with the state about a purchase price and asked in January to meet with village officials about the property but received no response, said Bernie O’Boyle, vice president of the board.

O’Boyle served as board chair for the meeting due to President Marie Ryan’s absence.

Shawn Roby, the park district’s executive director, said the park district has no commitment to purchase the property and is only exploratory at this time.

“The board is showing interest,” Roby said.

The ultimate goal of remediating the site comes at a multi-million dollar price tag to eliminate environmental hazards on the property.

The village has cited environmental problems as contaminated soil, underground storage tanks, asbestos and black mold. In addition, there would be costs for the demolition of dozens of buildings.

An estimate made a few years ago put the cost of fixing the site’s environmental problems and destroying dozens of buildings at $12.4 million, but village officials suspect costs have increased.

The site is located in a tax accrual funding district and property tax revenue generated by redevelopment in the district could be used to defray these site preparation costs.

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Earlier this month, the Park Board approved two bond sales totaling $2.1 million, with the proceeds being used to pay for park property acquisitions, though it did not specify the state-owned property.

Prior to the action against state property, the Parks Authority fired its attorneys, Peterson, Johnson & Murray, which is the main law firm in the village.

According to Glotz, Tinley Park has another law firm, Del Galdo Law Group, representing it in negotiations over the state property.

Park board members named Odelson, Sterk, Murphey, Frazier & McGrath as the new company.

The park board could have voted on the potential land purchase at its regular meeting this Wednesday and still stayed within the Nov. 30 deadline to notify the state of its interest.

Burt Odelson, a director at Odelson, Sterk, said Monday’s special meeting is needed to approve the law firm change ahead of Wednesday’s meeting.

mnolan@tribpub.com

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