After the failed first attempt to sell land it owns in Willow Springs, the Lyons Township High School District 204 Board of Education is still interested in selling the approximately 70-acre undeveloped tract its has owned for more than half a century.
The land is located southwest of the intersection of 79th Street and Willow Springs Road in Willow Springs.
For now, the school board says it is sticking by their minimum price of $55 million.
“The board still has the ability to negotiate with interested parties, assuming that the ultimate sale price is $55 million,” said LTHS District 204 Superintendent Brian Waterman. “That could go on for a short period of time or a long period of time, to be candid.”
A $55 million sale to Bridge Industrial fell apart after the company did not submit earnest money, according to the terms and conditions of the bid.
Bridge apparently walked away from the deal after Willow Springs officials made clear in a meeting with company executives that they would not change the zoning to fit Bridge’s desire to build an industrial park there. The land is zoned for single-family housing, senior housing or retail.
On Jan 23, the LTHS school board voted 6-0 to reject the bid from Bridge as well as $46.5 bid from ProLogis, a company that specializes in building warehouses and distribution centers.
The proposed sale drew intense opposition from people who live near the land and from Willow Springs officials who accused the high school boards of not caring about their neighborhood. They objected to the congestion, noise and pollution that industrial development would bring to their neighborhood.
In a statement subsequently posted on the LTHS website, the school board said Bridge had first approached them in March of 2022 expressing interest in buying the entire roughly 80-acre parcel of land bordered by 79th Street on the north, Willow Springs Road on the east, German Church Road on the south and Howard Avenue on the west.
At that time, Bridge officials were unaware that the Pleasant Dale Park District owns 6.8 acres in the east central portion of the property.
According to the statement on the LTHS website, school officials then conducted due diligence before publicly announcing their intent to sell in late November. In the interim they commissioned an enrollment study, which indicated that the land would not be needed for an additional high school in the foreseeable future.
LTHS bought the three adjacent parcels of land it owns there in 1955 and 1962 as a hedge in case an additional high school would ever be needed for District 204.
Waterman said that the school board wanted to get feedback from the community.
“We encouraged people to weigh in and they’ve certainly done that,” Waterman said.
Waterman said that, for now at least, the school board is not looking to lower price
LTHS is in strong financial shape and is not desperate to get the cash infusion that a sale of the land would bring. But officials would like to modernize and upgrade the district’s two campuses and had stated that sale proceeds would be used for that purpose.
“Our board has a desire to renovate our facilities, and honestly revolutionize our facilities, and has seen this as a potential way to do that,” Waterman said.