A resident of West Burlington Street in Riverside – that’s the one-block stretch of Burlington that can be found west of First Avenue – appeared before the Riverside Village Board on July 8 to request that it buy a long-vacant residential property in the neighborhood and turn it into a park.

Tony Maas, a longtime Riverside resident who has lived in the village’s Hollywood section for more than 30 years, noted there are no parks in Riverside west of First Avenue.

The property at 66 Forbes Road, he said, would be a perfect fit for a park.

“All the residents west of First Avenue do not have a playground or any kind of a park in that area,” Maas told trustees. “I thought it’d be an ideal time for the village to look at that property.” 

And the initial reaction from top village officials indicates that the idea might not be far-fetched.

Following the July 8 board meeting, Village President Ben Sells said he supported the idea of buying the property and putting a park at that location.

“I like the idea,” Sells said.

However, Sells said village’s Department of Park and Recreation would need to be part of the conversation.

“They need to make a determination of the need in that neighborhood and what realistically could go in over there,” Sells said.

Parks and Recreation Director Ron Malchiodi told the Landmark that the park board will discuss the proposal at its next meeting on July 25. He cautioned, however, that acquiring the property would be just a start and that making it suitable for redevelopment as a park and then doing the improvements could be very expensive.

Malchiodi said that the park board had gotten some cost estimates to build a new playground at Indian Gardens after the village was forced to remove ash trees there. Costs came in as high as $1 million, he said.

“It always comes down to funding,” Malchiodi said. “Determining funding and the support of the community are going to be key to the discussion.”

The house at 66 Forbes Road, which is located on the southwest corner of Forbes Road and West Burlington Street, is referred to as the “pumpkin house” by locals due to its orange-tinged stucco exterior and red roof. 

In terms of its suitability as a location for a park, the parcel would appear to be an interesting choice. It’s on a street that is not particularly busy with traffic and it’s at the end of the block. To the south is the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad right of way and to the east is forest preserve land.

The house at 66 Forbes Road sits on a fairly large parcel of land comprising two lots measuring about 115-by-115 feet, Maas said. Information found on the Cook County Assessor’s website indicates that the total area of the land is about 10,000 square feet.

The house went into foreclosure in March 2009 and has been vacant since at least 2010 when the village shut off water service, according to Riverside Village Manager Jessica Frances. 

Property records indicate that the house was deeded to U.S. Bank in October 2011. At the time, the amount owed on the property was $289,000 plus interest.

A second foreclosure action on the property was initiated in February 2012 and the property finally was disposed of at a sheriff’s sale in January 2016. It was purchased by U.S. Bank, according to property records. The sale price isn’t mentioned, but the total indebtedness on the property remaining as of the sale date was about $249,000.

The property is being auctioned online through Hubzu.com. According to Maas, the auction has been ongoing for about three weeks, with an opening price of about $250,000.

Since it has been listed, there have been no bids placed on the property. The opening bid price is now listed at $169,000.

Maas said that residents in his neighborhood often feel they are ignored by the rest of the village, and that the village could improve the neighborhood with a public park.

“We call it the forgotten neighborhood,” Maas said in an interview after his appearance before the board.

The public park closest to the neighborhood is Kiwanis Park in Brookfield. There’s also a small playground at the Hollywood Community House, which is shared with Hollywood School.

The last public park created by the village of Riverside, in 2001, was Patriots Park, which is located between Parkway Road and 26th Street on the north end of the village. According to Malchiodi, that park improvement was funded largely through grants and donations.

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