D96 makes bid to buy Hollywood House

Officials want more playground, parking space at Hollywood School

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By Bob Skolnik

Contributing Reporter

Riverside Elementary School District 96 has made an unsolicited offer of $340,000 to buy the nearly century-old Hollywood House, located just south of Hollywood School. 

The Hollywood House, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright acolyte William Drummond and built in 1920 to serve as a school, is owned by the Hollywood Citizens Association (HCA), a private community group. It has long been used as place for meetings and special events.

District officials have coveted the land the Hollywood House sits on and the adjacent green space. They want to tear down the Hollywood House to provide more land for parking and a new playground. 

Space is getting tight at Hollywood School, and an addition is being planned for it. The Hollywood School playground is on the land owned by the HCA.

Plans for a small addition at Hollywood School have prompted the school district to make the offer after protracted conversations with the HCA leaders. District officials say that they need the land to have enough space for the addition, parking and a better playground.

"We keep trying to sort of shoehorn in things," said District 96 Superintendent Martha Ryan-Toye. "It's been our long-term goal to separate play and parking and to improve outdoor play and learning spaces, and it just gets very complicated on that piece of property."

District officials and HCA board have been talking for a few years about how to work together to provide more playground space and more parking. HCA board President Gonzo Schexnayder said that District 96 officials have rejected ideas brought forth by the HCA to work together. He has said in the past that the HCA is not interested in selling the Hollywood House.

On the afternoon of June 24, shortly after receiving the offer, Schexnayder said the HCA board would meet sometime this week to decide how to respond.

"We had told District 96 that we weren't interested in selling the property and the house to them and made a number of offers, none of which they seem to have been interested in," Schexnayder said.

Schexnayder said the seven-person HCA board of directors will try to get input from the Hollywood neighborhood residents in Riverside and Brookfield before their meeting.

"We'll be very interested in hearing from the Hollywood neighbors on what they think," Schexnayder said.

A few hours after the offer was emailed to HCA board members, District 96 sent an email and press release to all District 96 parents, notifying them of the offer to buy Hollywood House.

Ryan-Toye said that the $340,000 offer was based on a recent appraisal that the district had done on the property.

Hollywood House is used by various groups such as Young Life, Scouts and the Hollywood School PTA. It is also rented out to private citizens for parties and family gatherings.

Ryan-Toye said if the HCA sells the house, the school district would allow the HCA to use the house at no cost for up to a year, since the addition at Hollywood School would not be built until the summer of 2020 at the earliest. 

But the district would eventually tear down the house. After that, Ryan-Toye said, District 96 would allow the HCA and perhaps other community groups to use Hollywood School for meetings and events. 

"The addition at Hollywood is intended to be a multi-purpose room which really can be sort of a large group community space that, I would think, many of their same activities might fit in there," Ryan-Toye said. "We think this could be a very good option for everybody involved."

District 96 has been on a real estate buying spree. In less than three years it has spent a little more than $1.2 million to buy three properties. It spent $689,100 to buy two houses on opposite sides of Ames School to make room for a large addition there, and last year shelled out an additional $600,000 to buy a building on Harlem Avenue to house the district's administrative offices. 

If the offer for the Hollywood House is accepted, it would amount to spending more than $1.6 million for property in less than three years.

Ryan-Toye said she didn't believe the school district would need to buy any other real estate for quite some time if the Hollywood House deal goes through.  

The school district is not making a take it or leave it offer and could be flexible on the price if the HCA wants to sell the Hollywood House.

"We're open to negotiations and we'll see where this goes," Ryan-Toye said.

Reader Comments

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Victor Skade  

Posted: June 28th, 2019 12:02 PM

For parking? Please! This sounds like the R-B High School land grab all over again. Will the Board of Hollywood School sue, at our expense, if anyone tries to stop them?

Matthew Thomas Senn from Brookfield (Hollywood)  

Posted: June 27th, 2019 4:40 PM

The HCA house is a very nice amenity for the Hollywood neighborhood. It is an affordable space to rent for individuals or organizations. If it was sold to the school district, how would we maintain that amenity? If the district provides a similar space at a reasonable rate, then I think it could be a fair deal. I like to see the school district investing in facilities and I do not believe the HCA house is available as a space to the school at this time.

Wm Demitro  

Posted: June 27th, 2019 3:08 AM

W Robert Demitro from Riverside (Facebook Verified) Posted: September 16th, 2016 1:05 AM Regina , I would agree with you if it was 2004 but times are a changing . The " fortune " market in the Village is colder than a well diggers pocket watch . Why would a developer invest 343K and another 45K to tear down/clean up a foreclosure when there are newer construction foreclosures selling in town for 425K - 550K , Take into consideration that the real estate market in the Hollywood Section is 2X hotter than the Chicago Cubs . now if you add into the equation that RBHS and Hollywood School's enrollments are growing at a brisker pace than Illinois State's debt and both schools are land-locked to expand makes not only this section of land highly desirable , but together with the patch of land the Hollywood House sits on would command close to a seven digit purchase price ...... So much for that 25K goodwill gesture .

Shawn Mari Amador from Hollywood Brookfield  

Posted: June 26th, 2019 4:13 AM

As a parent of Hollywood students, we are seeing our class sizes bursting at the seams--SO much that administration has had to ask parents for permission to fill the classes past the board policy numbers of 25 per class. In order for our school to stay excellent and meet our children's needs, we need more land.

Jon Points  

Posted: June 25th, 2019 9:55 PM

I understand the sentiment some in the community have toward the house, but the house does not enhance the community or maintain property values. The Hollywood Elementary School is the bedrock of the community and the school is what binds the community together. The school does more for the community than the HCA. The HCA should accept the schools offer. The District needs to improve the school for the students and the community.

Mary Rose Mangia from Riverside  

Posted: June 25th, 2019 9:16 PM

I love the HCA and the positive impact it has and hopefully continue to have in Hollywood. But the long term viability of excellent elementary school education in Hollywood depends on the school's ability to expand.

Carl A. DellaNina from Brookfield  

Posted: June 25th, 2019 5:00 PM

I am a long time Hollywood resident. I say leave the building alone ! It is a historical community landmark !

Mary McKevett  

Posted: June 25th, 2019 3:52 PM

I live on the 3500 block of Hollywood avenue. I say no way dont tear down that quaint piece of Hollywod History! It is a gem in todays world, and creates a meeting place amonst our neighbors that otherwise would not exist.

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