Community center proposed for site in Northbrook
Barbara Citti of Northbrook works on her golf swing at Techny Park June 11. The Northbrook Park District is conducting a public process to determine how to use six acres of recently acquired land that the Anetsburger Brothers Restaurant Equipment plant (b
Updated: August 20, 2012 6:01AM
NORTHBROOK — To be or not to be is the question regarding a proposed community center at 180 North Anets Drive in Northbrook.
Park District officials believe a recent survey supports buiding a center there, but Howard Schultz, executive director of the Northbrook-based YMCA, said the survey didn’t ask about other uses.
Northbrook Park District’s Executive Director Rick Hanetho said the district was looking at two projects when he took over in 2008, a $9 million capital improvement project at Sportsmans Country Club, and a survey about unmet community needs.
However, the economic downturn and the 48-year-old Leisure Center was in need about $1.7 million in repairs, so the board put the Sportsman’s project on hold. The board authorized the survey in 2009 asking about the need for indoor space, as well as expanding and enhancing what the district already had.
At that time, park district officials weren’t thinking about the 60-acre land deal made with the Anetsberger family for what is now Techny Prairie Park and Fields. During that 1999 acquisition, the park district had negotiated a 40-year option on a six-acre parcel at 180 N. Anets Drive.
“In the spring of 2009, we learned that the option was available to execute,” Hanetho said. “So we started negotiations to acquire that property, which back in 1999 had been identified as a potential site for a future community center.”
In December, the board bought for $2.1 million the six-acre parcel west of the existing park. It also hired an independent consultant to do the survey in January, followed by community forums and focus groups in March.
The focus groups consisted of adults 55 years and older; the North Suburban Special Recreation Association; the Northbrook Chamber of Commerce; school district officials; the North Suburban YMCA; the Northbrook Historical Society; park district affiliates for baseball, soccer and theatre; and park district staff and board members.
Among other things, the report found interest in a walking/running track, in gym/fitness space and more space for seniors.
The study recommended a feasibility study be done to determine the cost of building and operating a community center, and of renovating and operating the Leisure Center; and creating a plan for indoor space.
It also recommended staff identify funding for improvements, and determine possible impacts on similar service providers and explore potential partnerships with government agencies, nonprofits and private organizations.
“The YMCA has expressed interest in a partnership. It involves the park district investing roughly $4 million in the YMCA by expanding it,” Hanetho said. “But the park district’s position is that it is premature to discuss, because the district isn’t sure what it is doing with its own space and land yet.”
Schultz said the proposed community center is between the YMCA and Five Seasons, and other facilities offer services a park center would.
“The idea of building a multimillion facility with tax dollars that would certainly compete with places like Five Seasons, which pays $800,000 a year in taxes, or the YMCA that gives more than $460,000 a year in financial assistance, is wrong,” Schultz said.
“We could expand the Y if the park district could build some space here. The district could build the infrastructure and we would take care of all the operating costs.”
The Y’s 80,000-square-foot facility is being renovated and will be done by the end of summer. The Y also has the highest membership it has had in eight years, he added.
“Building a fitness facility that would compete with the Y and Five Seasons, where fitness is the lifeblood of both our dues structure and is right down the street from both of us, would have a major impact,” he said. “Other things can be built on that property — all weather turf fields, a jogging track, a senior center or a Ravinia-style bandshell.”