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Development plans for former Sabre Room property will be reviewed

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

 

Hickory Hills Mayor Mike Howley told city council members at last Thursday’s board meeting that proposed development plans for the former Sabre Room property will be discussed later this month.

Howley informed the board the old Sabre Room property as 8900 W. 95th St. will be the topic of discussion at the Feb. 23 council meeting.

In early January, Howley had announced that the proposed development plan, known as Sabre Woods Plaza, had been deferred indefinitely because there were still a lot of unanswered questions.

At that time, the mayor explained that the plans which had been presented at the Nov. 10 council meeting by Jim Louthen, development project manager, and Charles Cornelius, Jr., of Chicagoland Realty Service, did not fit the expectation of the city’s zoning board.

Plans presented at that meeting in November for the 30-acre property called for six single-family homes on the west side of the property, a Senior Village, for ages 55 and over, an assisted living campus, including a memory unit, possibly two five-story apartment units and retail/commercial fronting on 95th Street along the eastern edge of the property. Also proposed was an open civic area, green space and retention ponds.

Louthen had stated that the best use for a large portion of the property on the northwest corner could be a park-like location with walking trails, benches, etc., because it is in a wetlands, floodplain area.

Many questions were raised by council members at that meeting regarding retention ponds, apartments units and who would be responsible for the suggested park-like area.

At last Thursday’s meeting, Howley said new information had been presented by the developer so the council will review it on Feb. 23. There is also a committee of the whole meeting at 6:30 p.m., just prior to the regular council meeting at 7:30 p.m.

The council also approved a request from the Hickory Hills Park District to conduct a carnival at the Kasey Meadow Park, located at 8047 W. 91st Place, beginning May 11 and continuing through May 14.

Presenting the request was Dan Maier, recreation director, who said this will be the first carnival for the park district.

“We are planning to hold it at the bottom of the hill in the park. We thought that would be a good place for it. It will be very family-oriented, with rides and games for the kids. It is a medium-size carnival. We wanted to start small and see how things go,” he said.

Maier listed the hours as 5 to 10 p.m. on Thursday, May 11; 5 to 11 p.m. on Friday, May 12; noon to 11 p.m. on Saturday, May 13; and noon to 10 p.m. on Sunday, May 14.

He added that on May 12, the carnival will also be open from 3 to 5 p.m., for people with special needs and their families. “It will be free to them for those two hours,” Maier said.

Howley told Maier that he did not have any concerns regarding the carnival.

“I have seen how you and your crew have run many successful events. You are professionals. I have no worries about how this event will go,” he said.

Also approved was a $200 donation made annually to the Hills Baseball/Softball Association.

BREAKING NEWS: NJCAA strips Moraine Valley women's team of 15 wins

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

 

PAGE 1 JONES 2 16

 

Photo by Jeff Vorva

Moraine Valley women’s basketball coach Delwyn Jones said the NJCAA is taking 15 victories away from the Cyclones for “very minor infractions.’’

 

Moraine Valley Community College officials plan to appeal last week’s National Junior College Athletic Association’s decision to strip the nationally ranked women’s basketball team of 15 victories for using ineligible players.

Coach Delwyn Jones said he found out about the penalties on Feb. 15. At the time, his team was 25-2 and ranked 13th in the nation among NJCAA Division II schools in a coaches’ poll.

“These are very minor infractions,” Jones said Thursday night, after his team’s 84-61 victory over Waubonsee in Palos Heights, which would have given the Cyclones a 10-0 mark in the Skyway Conference and 26-2 mark overall if not for the forced forfeits. “With one player, they wanted two different forms and we sent them one of the forms. But both of the forms say the exact same thing. All the information is the same. We gave them a release but not a transfer waiver. But since she never enrolled in the previous school, we will argue that you don’t need a waiver if she didn’t enroll.

“The other player is a good academic student. This is her sixth semester and she needed 60 credit hours and she had 54. She is eight credits from graduating with a 2.75 GPA and she’s ineligible. It doesn’t make any sense when you have kids playing 12 credits and a 1.75 GPA.  We’re hit by red tape. There are some things we probably should have seen that we didn’t. For the sophomores who worked so hard to get this record…it’s tough.’’

If the NJCAA sticks to its guns, the Cyclones enter this week 11-17 as the players involved did not play in all of the games this season.

The Cyclones have hopes of making the NJCAA national tournament and they were not penalized for the postseason. But seeding the Region IV tournament will be unpredictable. Jones said the coaches will gather Feb. 26 for the postseason seeding meeting.

“That’s going to be a question mark,” Jones said. “It’s gone both ways in the past. The team at the top is not going to want to play a team that is literally 26-2 on the court. They don’t want to play a team like that early.’’

 

 

Oak Lawn mayor shows some love for her community

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

 

bury and riordan photo 2-16

Photo by Dermot Connolly

Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury talks to Oak Lawn Community High School District 229 Superintendent Michael Riordan following her “State of the Village” address to the Chamber of Commerce during a luncheon Tuesday at the Hilton Oak Lawn, 9333 S. Cicero Ave.

 

Since it was Valentine’s Day, Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury chose “Love Oak Lawn” as the theme of the State of the Village speech she gave Tuesday at a luncheon that the Oak Lawn Chamber of Commerce hosted at the Hilton Oak Lawn.

“Oak Lawn is our home, our heart. What’s not to love about it?” said the mayor, as she launched into her speech about all the good things that are happening in the village.

She said that the $57 million annual budget is funded by $13.9 million in property taxes, with the rest covered by other revenue, primarily sales tax.

“Just 11 percent of your property tax goes to the village,” she noted. “That is an average of $50 a month. Who spends that and more on coffee? It is a great value for all the services provided. We work very hard to keep these costs down.”

“We’ve lowered the tax levy by 6 percent over the last four years. And we’ve lowered the debt as well,” said the mayor. “What Oak Lawn is doing is exceptional. It is unheard of,” said the mayor.

“How were we able to do it? It came from growing the sales tax, and that is a credit to you,” she told the many business owners in the audience. “Residents are getting our Shop Oak Lawn message.”

“Business licenses are growing by leaps and bounds,” continued the mayor. She pointed out that the Chamber of Commerce is “385 members strong,” with 59 new members joining in 2016.

“We had 16 ribbon-cuttings in 2016, and one just this morning for Raising Cane’s restaurant (in the Stony Creek Promenade, at 11006 S. Cicero Ave.),” she said, adding that the new businesses created 1,500 new jobs last year.

The mayor also said that 2,787 building permits were issued in 2016, more than in any of the past 16 years. She said that single-family home permits were also up last year.

She said Oak Lawn property values have been steadily increasing in recent years, and showed graphs illustrating how they have overtaken those in Evergreen Park and Alsip. “With Oak Lawn’s success, we’ve narrowed the gap with Tinley Park, and we parallel Orland Park. We would like to see the gap narrowed further there, and we think we can do it.”

Bury also highlighted the successes of the fire and police departments, citing statistics and cited data available on city-data.com that showing that most crime categories are on a downward trend from 2001 to 2015, the latest year available.

“Oak Lawn is rated among the best the surrounding communities,” she added, pointing out that only Hometown, which is 1/10 the size of Oak Lawn, has a better “crime average” compared to the surrounding communities.

“This is a team effort,” said Bury, thanking members of the village board and the department heads “for making it all possible”.

Among those on the dais with her that she singled out for praise included Village Manager Larry Deetjen, finance director Brian Hanigan, Police Chief Michael Murray, Fire Chief George Sheets, and Diana Tousignant, communications director of the village’s 911 emergency dispatch center. She said the 911 center handled 182,128 calls last year.

No one asked questions following her speech, but Frank Saez, who owns Papa Frank’s Gyro’s, rose to thank Bury and Deetjen for helping him through some difficulties when he first bought the business formerly known as Big Pappa’s Gyros at 10806 S. Cicero Ave. last year.

 

St. Laurence going co-ed, will enroll Queen of Peace girls

  • Written by Tim Hadac

queen of peace photo 2-16

 Submitted photo

 A few Queen of Peace girls have worn the St. Laurence black and gold over the years, including as Viking cheerleaders at football and basketball games.

Tears of joy were shed across Chicago and the southwest suburbs earlier this week as Queen of Peace High School students, parents, alumnae and others cheered the news that their current students will be accepted this fall at their “brother” school, St. Laurence High School.

“I don’t know if the timing is coincidental, but this is the Valentine’s Day gift of a lifetime. Our hearts are bursting with joy,” said Michelle Garcia, an aunt of a currently enrolled Peace girl. “If I bump into anyone from St. Laurence today, I’m giving them a hug and a kiss. In fact, I might bake a heart-shaped cake and bring it over to the school.”

This week’s news was largely predicted in a front-page story that appeared in last week’s The Reporter, which revealed that St. Laurence— an all-boys school since its founding in 1961 -- was quietly surveying thousands of its alumni and presenting four options relating to possible responses to Queen of Peace’s announcement that it was closing its doors for good, due to declining enrollment and mounting debt. Three of those St. Laurence options involved going co-ed in some way.

This week’s decision was announced to St. Laurence students at an all-school assembly on Tuesday morning — and almost at the same time, to parents, alumni and other friends of the school via an email blast.

Students who heard the news “were very supportive,” said St. Laurence spokesman Mike Madera, who added that as a 2010 graduate of the school, he finds the decision “smart and forward-thinking"

"This already is an exciting time of growth at St. Laurence, and this decision will make it even more so…it will ultimately make the school a stronger and better place,”Madera said.

Queen of Peace students who choose to enroll at St. Laurence in the fall will still enjoy the benefits of all-girl classes.

“It is a top priority to provide current St. Laurence and Queen of Peace students the single-gender education they signed up for, so all current and incoming students will remain in single-gender classrooms,” according to a statement by St. Laurence Board Chairman George Ruebenson and President Joseph Martinez, both alumni of the Burbank school. “This will allow our students to see very little change in their school day. To foster collaboration, we will open up activities before and after school and will develop a selection of coed electives to provide students opportunities to interact.”

The relatively small number of eighth-grade girls who took the entrance exam at Queen of Peace last month will not be offered spots at St. Laurence in the fall, officials said, but the school will begin marketing itself to both boys and girls and will accept both in the freshman class starting in the fall of 2018.

At that point, St. Laurence’s plan is to educate freshmen and sophomores as separately as possible under one roof and then move those students into co-educational classes as juniors and seniors.

St. Laurence officials also indicated they will not assume control of any Queen of Peace property, including its financial debt. They also were clear that the move does not represent a merger with Queen of Peace — that the girls will be St. Laurence students.

Many questions about Queen of Peace itself remain unanswered, including what will happen to the Queen of Peace building and grounds at 7659 S. Linder.

A request for comment on St. Laurence’s announcement yielded a more general expression from Anne O’Malley, president of Queen of Peace.

“We are grateful to the St. Laurence community and excited about what the future holds for our young women,” she said, in part. “While we are broken hearted to see Queen of Peace close, we find solace in the fact that many of our students will remain together until they graduate. The Queen of Peace leadership will work diligently with St. Laurence to make sure this is a smooth and successful transition for the students of both schools.”

As they did a week ago, graduates of bothschools, as well as mothers, fathers and even grandparents registered their opinions on Facebook and other social media sites.

“A week ago, my daughter and her [Queen of Peace] classmates were panicked and distraught, holding each other and crying,” one mother posted in a Facebook group. “Today, they’re holding each other and crying — but for a very, very different reason. They’re relieved and overjoyed. They’re at peace. Thank you so much, St. Laurence. What you did today is literally life-changing for my daughter and her friends.”

Going co-educational was something St. Laurence had started to consider, even before Queen of Peace announced its shutdown.

“St. Laurence has seen growth in its enrollment in recent years, but the trends of Catholic education in Chicago cannot be ignored,” its statement on Tuesday added. “Fewer and fewer students are going to single-sex high schools.Testing numbers have been on the decline at single-sex schools over the last decade, while coeducational high schools have seen an increase in test takers and historically experience far less volatility in enrollment.”

St. Laurence officials made it clear Tuesday that their decision was not an act of charity. They said Peace students are “a strong group of young women who, should they choose a St. Laurence education, will offer our community a new and valuable dynamic as they finish their high school careers together. These young women will bring intellectual opinions and experiences that differ from our male students, yet their familiarity and background with Queen of Peace’s STEAM program will align well with St. Laurence’s project-based curriculum. In the end, we believe our team-driven environment will only improve the exchange of ideas between students and help all of them prepare for the challenges ahead.”

To begin the transition, St. Laurence was set to host two town hall-style meetings this week: one for parents of its own students and another for Queen of Peace parents. To a limited degree, the schools have conducted co-educational activities over the years, most notably the inclusion of Peace girls in the St. Laurence band and rebranding it with Queen of Peace’s name.

Rezoning of vacant freight terminal expected to appeal to developers

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

 

Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar is optimistic about the village’s chances of marking the largely vacant Harlem Avenue TIF district to developers now that it has been rezoned for regional mixed use.

The Village Board unanimously approved the rezoning at a meeting last month. Tokar said then that it was “one of the most important votes” the board had taken in many years, because of the positive economic impact it could have on the village. The largely vacant 105-acre TIF district stretches south from 100rd Street along Harlem Avenue, nearly as far as Southwest Highway. The site is mainly taken up by the 70-acre former Yellow Freight property, which is now owned by Chippewa Motor Freight Inc.

“The regional mixed use designation permits a lot of different types of development, including entertainment, retail, and residential -- except for a trucking terminal. So I think Chippewa will be in the market to sell,” said the mayor during an interview on Monday.

Tokar predicted that if the property does get successfully developed, the village could even restart its property tax rebate program, which had to be put on hold when the economy sank in 2008 and the village lost nearly half its tax revenue.

“Even when Yellow Freight was there, it didn’t generate much money for the village,” said Tokar. “We couldn’t even sell them vehicle stickers because they were doing interstate commerce.”

Penske Truck Rental is currently the only tenant now. The company plans to remain onsite, and received approval from the village recently to begin selling different types of trucks.

Tokar said among many inquiries the village has received was one that came from a developer involved in e-commerce, who expressed an interest in operating a business similar to Amazon on the property.

“We would be entitled to a percentage of the sales tax from that,” he noted.

The mayor said the regional mixed use designation makes it possible for movie theaters, restaurants, retail and other businesses to move in.

“That would mean five or six streams of revenue coming into the village,” he said, counting sales taxes on food and beverages, entertainment and other fees.

While much of the TIF district is not publicly owned, Tokar pointed out that the village does own the piece of the property located on the northeast corner of 103rd and Harlem, where a Nicobee’s restaurant once stood. The village tore down the building last year, and Tokar said that site could very well be the first piece to be redeveloped.

“One person has expressed an interest in it. He suggested turning it into a retail strip, perhaps with a Starbuck’s as part of it. That would be a nice addition because I don’t think there is a Starbuck’s between 79th Street and 119th Street.”

He said another proposal came from someone interested opening a gas station with a mini-mart there, but the mayor said gas stations are more plentiful.

A craft brewery was expected to win approval from the board at Tuesday’s meeting to open at 10215 S. Harlem Ave., which the mayor said the entire board seems to be in favor of.

“That will be a great addition to the village, main thing is to create more revenue sources so we don’t have to depend so much on residents for property taxes,” said the mayor. “We have about 100 full-time employees and nobody wants to raise property taxes.”