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Park District Grant Could Go Toward Facility at Former Jewel Property

Board will discuss how to use the $2.4 million grant for a new facility in Central Park area.

The Wheaton Park District realized an opportunity this week that's worth millions. 

Gov. Pat Quinn's office announced Monday that it has awarded a $2,441,300 grant to the for a new acquisition in the area. The state gave a total of $50 million in Park and Recreational Facility Construction (PARC) grants to 22 agencies that applied last November.

The Central Park area includes the Central Park tennis courts, grounds and field house, the old Hubble school property and the former Jewel property, according to park board president Ray Morrill. The grants were awarded for acquisition and development projects statewide. Wheaton's grant is for the acquisition of 1.45 acres containing a 20,000 square foot building, which will be converted to a field house for recreational use, according to a press release from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). Mike Benard, executive of the Wheaton Park District said Thursday that the grant specifically refers to the acquisition of the former Jewel property.

Morrill said Wednesday that the park district was “pleasantly surprised” to hear they were selected to receive the money. He said he could see the park district building a facility for indoor sports at the Jewel property, but that the board has not yet discussed their options.

“There are things to take into consideration as a board,” he said “Money is always a consideration—just because there’s a grant (doesn’t mean money is not an issue).

“I believe the grant is for 80 percent of the purchase of the property, so it’d be up to us to come up with more—plus renovations, so therein lies the due diligence we need to do.”

The former Jewel property, located at 114 E. Willow Avenue, is listed for $3.25 million, according to the City of Wheaton website. The grant could cover about 75 percent of the sale at its list price. The 1.45-acre property has a 19,574 square foot building and 77-space parking lot.

Morrill said the board of commissioners will discuss how to use the grant in their Oct. 19 meeting. “Hopefully we’ll get the buildings and grounds committee to get together and talk about it and hopefully they’ll come to us with a recommendation,” he said. Benard said the committee will meet next week to review the grant and financial details, and prepare information for the board before the Oct. 19 meeting.

Funding was made available for the grant through the state’s “Illinois Jobs Now!” capital program, which has allocated a total of $150 million in grants to assist park districts with recreation construction projects, according to the Illinois Association of Park Districts (IAPD). The public works projects throughout the state are expected to create more than 300 jobs, according to a release from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR).

IDNR Director Marc Miller wrote in the release that the grants are "a great opportunity to improve the quality of life in communities throughout Illinois, not only in the long term but the short term as well by creating jobs."

“It’s an honor to have been selected … we submit applications all the time for grants and awards—and we get some, usually you get very few … so it’s both a surprise and an honor," Morrill said. "It’s an opportunity … we’re appreciative that our staff applied … now it’s a matter of what it is used for."

Barbara McCarthy October 06, 2011 at 01:01 PM
Does this mean that the trade that was proposed, Hubble gym for the Central Park tennis courts, playground, etc. will not have to happen? The Central Park was mentioned and it was my understanding that the deal for Hubble was contingent on that property being included.
Roger October 06, 2011 at 05:23 PM
It was my impression that the Jewel site was extremely overpriced by Jewel to keep a grocery store away. If the Mariano's sale goes thru that would appear to be a moot point now and might encourage them to lower the price. Wouldn't a lower sale price encourage different development options? Is a field house really the best possibility for the site? (I know, here we go again.....)
Charlotte Eriksen (Editor) October 06, 2011 at 08:19 PM
I think the two are separate, Barbara. The Central Park area refers that general area. The acquisition of the Jewel property was referred to as a "Central Park field house" project because Central Park is the nearest park, and the name could apply at Jewel.
Charlotte Eriksen (Editor) October 06, 2011 at 08:21 PM
Roger—you're thinking is pretty ahead of what's going on right now ... you could be right but it seems like that'll be unknown for awhile...
Rick Nelson October 07, 2011 at 02:27 AM
I think it is wonderful that the park district can obtain this grant but just where is the economic sense of the state spending money it does not have. The economic stimulus benefits never seem to match the hype.
Charlotte Eriksen (Editor) October 07, 2011 at 02:46 AM
Can you explain a bit more?
Rick Nelson October 07, 2011 at 03:11 AM
Just where is the state getting the funds when they have a hard time meeting current bills? Same argument as on the federal level. I don't mean to say the grant is without merit but its economic benefit from the states viewpoint is ofton overstated.
Andrew October 07, 2011 at 10:13 AM
Beware. The State is real good at awarding money, but they don't actually seem to ever send it.
Mark Johnson October 07, 2011 at 08:06 PM
Andrew has a good point. District 200 has been waiting for years for $14 Million in capital development money from the State of Illinois. From a September 15, 2011 article by Marco Santana in the Daily Herald titled, "Dist. 200 passes balanced budget despite state shortfalls." "$146.5 million budget does not include an anticipated $14 million payment the state has said is forthcoming in capital development money. After falling behind on payments to school districts across the state, state officials say the money is now held up at the state comptroller’s office." http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20110915/news/709159953/
Mark Johnson October 07, 2011 at 08:14 PM
If the Park District cannot obtain additional funding to secure the Jewel property, can they use the money to update the old Hubble property that they will maintain (gyms, fields, track, old press box, etc.). The track and press box are no longer use, demolish them?
Charlotte Eriksen (Editor) October 07, 2011 at 08:18 PM
That's a really good question ... I know the language of the grant is for 'acquisition' of property for a recreational facility. I wonder if that's a viable option.
Mickey Flynn October 07, 2011 at 08:46 PM
I think this story would be a great commentary piece for the great Mark Stern. There are more questions than answers about this property. Does this grant change the Park District relationship with the purchasor of Hubble? Mark Stern is an attorney and I am sure he has the answers.
CAROLE October 07, 2011 at 09:15 PM
THE STATE OF ILLINOIS IS SO "BROKE" THEY CANNOT PAY THEIR BILLS???????? NOW THE CITY RECEIVES 2.4 MILLION????????

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