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Illinois House OKs legislation to sell former Tinley Park Mental Health Center to park district

The SouthtownStar - 5/26/2023

May 26—The Illinois House has approved legislation that would sell the shuttered Tinley Park Mental Health Center property to the Tinley Park-Park District for $1, according to the district, state Sen. Mike Hastings, D-Frankfort, and state Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island.

The 280-acre property, northwest of the intersection of Harlem Avenue and 183rd Street, has been eyed for redevelopment by the Park District and the village.

The legislation, which previously passed the Senate, would require the state's Central Management Services, which controls the site, to sell it to the Park District. The measure now goes to Gov. J.B. Pritzker for consideration.

"We are very grateful to members of the General Assembly for supporting our vision for the Mental Health Center to create new recreational opportunities and green space to benefit the entire Southland region," Park Board President Marie Ryan said in a news release.

Before any redevelopment could occur, millions of dollars would need to be spent to clean up environmental problems with the property, and who might foot the bill for that remains up in the air, although the Park District indicates it is looking for help from the state.

"The Park Board of Commissioners is hopeful Gov. Pritzker will sign the legislation into law, and we can partner with the state to begin needed environmental cleanup at the site," Ryan said.

The property had at one point been considered a site for a combination harness race track and casino, but Hastings said the legislation prohibits any gambling development on the site.

A spokeswoman for Pritzker said Friday the governor will consider the legislation when it reaches his desk.

The Park District plans include a domed, regulation-size soccer field and a stadium with a running track.

The village has also been in talks with Central Management Services about acquiring the property and had proposed a mixed-use entertainment district that would "be a powerful economic engine" producing tax revenue and make Tinley Park "an all around-destination to live, work and play," Mayor Michael Glotz said in a January posting on the village's website.

The village's aim is to have a development that would complement assets such as an outdoor music theater and several hotels that are adjacent to the state-owned property.

Pat Carr, Tinley Park's village manager, said Friday village officials are "definitely disappointed and believe we are a better choice to make this a developable property," with private investors helping cover the costs of environmental remediation.

"After all is said and done we are relieved the state took some action," he said. "We (village and Park District) have a shared vision, in some sense, of seeing the property cleaned up."

Carr said the village had been pushing state officials to remove hazardous material, including asbestos and mold, on the property and that he hopes the Park District has better luck.

"We've been waiting for eight years for money from the state" to remediate the site, he said.

State Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, who had sponsored the legislation in the House, said in a statement Friday that passage is a step forward with addressing conditions on the property.

"We are finally moving forward with putting the eyesore of the Tinley Park Mental Health Center property behind us and replacing it with a state-of-the-art sports and parks complex that will be an attraction for all of the Southland region," Rita said.

The Park District's first phase would encompass 90 acres and include and accessible playground and sports facilities, multipurpose athletic fields, a domed sports complex with a full-size soccer field, a stadium with a track, a splash pad, concession stands and spectator stands as well as a pond, picnic areas.

The Park District believes the athletic fields could be used for sports tournaments that could draw visitors from throughout the Chicago area and Midwest to Tinley Park, who, in turn, would stay at hotels and patronize village restaurants, helping the village's economy.

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