Well, now it’s come out?”Bill Russ’s big secret about a certain big development coming to Brookfield last November. An inn in Kiwanis Park. A new, but unspecified location for a new village hall. I assume some of the money coming from the land sale would be used to pay for the new hall.
Frankly, I’m getting more than a little tired of having Mr. Russ always telling me, and other Brookfield residents, not to be so negative, and to “not start looking for reasons why [something] won’t work.”
Hey, being a historian, I didn’t have to look very far for any reasons. Here’s a dandy one.
On April 15, 1955, the people of Brookfield were asked by the village “to give your permission for the purchase of Kiwanis Park” from the City of Chicago, by bond issuance in the total of $195,000.
The village further stated, in its own distributed leaflet, that “by voting ‘Yes’ on the question of a bond issue to purchase Kiwanis Park [both north and south sections] for the recreational and civic use of Brookfield and to guarantee a permanent recreational area for the youth and citizens of our community.”
Nothing there, that I can see, about selling the land to allow an inn, or any other private business to be located on it.
Notice the document said “permanent recreational area,” which apparently means exactly 50 years, to some people. I fail to see how residents are going to benefit, recreationally, at an inn.
Are local citizens going to be able to use the pool or recreational facilities, if there are any? Maybe they’ll be able to park in the inn’s parking lot. Will they even get a discount on room rates? Just how will Brookfield people benefit, recreationally?
And then there’s the matter of the new village hall being relocated. The old village hall, when it was located at the corner of Brookfield and Forest avenues, lasted from 1899 to 1973, or 74 years.
Now the present one, only in use 32 years, has had it? How long will the next one last? A decade?
A 1950 aerial photo shows Kiwanis Park’s northern section with nothing much more than a late 1940s-trated sandlot-style baseball field in existence at the corner of Brookfield and Arden Avenues. The rest of it was scrub brush, not even a parking lot. Come 1952, Brookfield’s first official Little League Teams played on an upgraded field. In 1953, the village cleared away some land for a commuter parking lot, taking up the space of about which today’s lot out front of the village hall does.
The voters of Brookfield voted in 1955 at a ratio of 2-to-1 to allow the bonds to be issued, and the park land to be bought. But no sooner was the ink dry on the deed than the village decided what “civic use” meant.
Voters were asked to approve $695,000 worth of bonds to build a new village hall, citing cramped quarters and illustrating them in a booklet. If the architect’s drawing is correct, the building and parking lots would’ve stretched almost back to the Kiwanis Park shelter. Yes, it would’ve been located where the present village hall is, and then some. On April 16, 1957, the voters failed to allow the bond issue.
I think the commuter parking lot was enlarged a little northwards, but otherwise Kiwanis Park did not experience any further chipping away at its trees and grass lands. At least, not until the early 1970s, when the present village hall was built.
After that came an ever-expanding parking area out back, and in the 1980s the public works “dump” became the Recycling Center for a few years. Then came the T-ball field, further north of that. Let’s not forget that transmission tower, still out back of the village hall. Where would that be relocated if the inn was built? I’m sure it wouldn’t be allowed to interfere with the view from the rooms. Chip, chip, chip, always chipping away at the parkland.
There used to be so many trees in Kiwanis Park. Sure, elm blight and time felled some of them, but so has expansion.
Do I think that this public land, once specifically voted on to be used for recreational and civic purposes, should be sold to a private business to build an inn on? In a word, no. And, Mr. Russ, I am sure that the people of Brookfield will come up with many more reasons why this won’t work.
Oh, one more thing. It seems like every time a new development is proposed around here, architects from Oak Park are drawing up the plans. Brookfield is not looking to be another Oak Park, is it? And what about Brookfield architects? As a 1920s Brookfield newspaper once asked, “Why not try the home product first?”