The Willow Springs land owned by Lyons Township High School is no longer for sale. On March 10, after a failed attempt to sell the approximately 70-acre tract the district has owned for more than half a century and weeks of intense and sustained criticism at school board meetings, the school board announced it’s no longer fielding bids.
“At this time, the board is no longer soliciting or considering bids at the minimum price and under the current approved terms and conditions,” a press release issued by the LTHS Board of Education stated.
The school board had set a $55 million minimum price for the land. In January it received two bids, a $55 million offer from Bridge Industrial, which wanted to build an industrial park on the site, and a $46.5 million from ProLogis, a company that specializes in building warehouses and distribution centers.
The proposed sale sparked intense opposition from those who live in the quiet neighborhood near the tract of wooded land southwest of 79th Street and Willow Springs Road. Pleasantdale Elementary School is adjacent to the LTHS-owned land.
Those opposed to the sale said an industrial park would ruin their neighborhood, create congestion and create pollution. The deal fell apart after the village of Willow Springs made clear that it would not alter the zoning to allow industrial development.
As a result, Bridge never paid LTHS the required earnest money and the school board officially rejected the bids on Jan. 23 at a meeting attended by more than 100 opponents of the sale.
Those against the sale continued to attend and speak out at every school board meeting since, criticizing the school board for trying to sell the land to an industrial developer and accusing the board of not caring about the Pleasantdale neighborhood.
They have called for the board to make clear that it would not again try to sell the land to an industrial developer.
“We are grateful for our engaged community and have heard your feedback, both for and against the land sale,” the press release states.
The school board is still interested in ultimately the selling the land, which was originally purchased in 1955 and 1962 as the possible site for a new high school should one ever be needed. LTHS officials have decided that there is no need for a new high school in the foreseeable future.
“The board will continue to explore options on how to maximize the property’s impact for our entire District 204 community,” the press release stated. “When that time comes, new terms, conditions and pricing would be established.”
Most of the opponents of the land sale have said that they are not opposed to selling it, they just are opposed to a sale for industrial development. The land is currently zoned to allow single-family housing, retail or a senior housing.
The school board would like to use proceeds from the land sale to upgrade the technology and aging infrastructure of its two campuses in LaGrange and Western Springs.
The press release acknowledged the anger and frustration that the proposed sale caused in the Pleasantdale community and areas near it.
“We understand the stress and uncertainty that many in our community felt these past few months,” the press release stated.