The Lyons Township High School District 204 Board of Education appears ready to sell a 72-acre parcel of vacant land it has owned for more than half a century after apparently being approached by a potential buyer.

“It has come to our attention that there is interest again in the Willow Springs property,” school board President Kari Dillon announced at the Dec. 5 committee of the whole meeting.

Lyons Township High School has owned a 72-acre parcel of land in Willow Springs, shown above inside dotted line, for 60 years. | GOOGLE MAPS

The land is located near 79th Street and Willow Springs Road in Willow Springs near the Tri-State Tollway. LTHS purchased the land in two parcels, one in 1955 and the other in 1962, because there was concern District 204 would need to build another high school to accommodate enrollment growth beyond the capacity of its existing buildings, but that has never happened.

A demographic study done for the district in August concluded the property will not be needed for future expansion. If LTHS does sell the property, it would use the proceeds from the sale to upgrade its current facilities to likely fully air condition its two buildings, further upgrade the HVAC systems, modernize classrooms, create additional collaborative spaces for students and staff and make improvements to current athletic facilities.

Ricardo Martinez, who ran unsuccessfully for the school board in both 2019 and 2021, advocated during both of his campaigns selling the Willow Springs property and using the proceeds to fully air condition both of LTHS’ campuses.

Lyons Township High School has two campuses. The nearly century-old North Campus in LaGrange serves juniors and seniors while South Campus, built in Western Springs in 1956, serves freshman and sophomores. District 204 has an enrollment of about 3,900 students.

School board members say they are anxious to get community feedback about the possibility of selling the land. Community members can read about the potential sale and leave feedback on a web page at ltwillowspringsproperty.org.

“It will be exciting to see what comes of this exciting opportunity,” said LTHS board member Jill Beda Daniels at the Dec. 5 meeting of the school board.

Board member Julie Swinehart agreed.

“This is big opportunity,” Swinehart said. “This is a big potential decision.”

The school board met in closed session Dec. 5 to discuss setting a price for the Willow Springs land.

One community member who attended the Committee of the Whole meeting believes that it would be a mistake to sell the land. Anne Bennett, an accountant and lawyer who lives in LaGrange and graduated from LTHS in 1979, addressed the issue in the public comment portion of the Dec. 5 meeting.

Bennett, whose father served on the LTHS school board in the 1970s and 1980s including as school board president, says the demographic study is riddled with errors. She believes much of the land in the LTHS’ district, including the giant UPS facility near the Tri-State, could eventually be developed into high density housing. The land is zoned as a planned development district.

Bennett believes LTHS should hold on to the land as a hedge against future need and in the meantime turn the land into income-producing property by developing it for some kind of use, possibly a health club or retail or office space, that could eventually be converted into a high school if needed. 

She also said that developing the land, but maintaining ownership of it, would provide LTHS with an annual revenue stream rather than just a one-time infusion of cash.

“Although as fiduciaries the [school board] should periodically review its assets, the possibly of needing a third LTHS campus is a distinct reality; therefore, I believe LTHS should look for other alternatives to generate revenue from the LTHS property as opposed to selling it,” Bennett said in a detailed memo she sent to the school board.

This story has been changed. The Lyons Township High School property in question is within the boundaries of the village of Willow Springs. It is not in unincorporated Lyons Township.