Wilmette, News

‘No plans yet’ for Beth Hillel property, Park Board president says

The ink on the contract of the Wilmette Park District’s $5.4 million purchase of Beth Hillel Bnai Emunah synagogue has hardly dried, but local officials have already faced questions about the future use of the nearly 5-acre site.

Park Board President Kara Kosloskus took a brief moment during the board’s late May Committee of the Whole session to address community speculation about the potential future use of the space, saying that the park has “no plans yet as to what will happen with that property.” 

“Anything that is being circulated is purely rumor,” Kosloskus said. “This board has not discussed the future of that land other than acquiring it and providing more opportunities for parks and recreation in our village.” 

Kosloskus later added that the Park Board viewed the chance to acquire the property at 3220 Big Tree Lane as a “great opportunity.” 

Park officials also noted during the session that the district is in the middle of a strategic master plan, which will also help determine potential future uses. 

As previously reported by The Record, park commissioners unanimously approved the purchase of property in mid-May. 

The parcel, located in southwest Wilmette off of Glenview Road and near the Edens Expressway, is approximately 4.8 acres, per park district documents. 

Beth Hillel has owned the property — which includes a 54,000-square-foot building that features classrooms, a playground, a garden, more than 150 parking spaces and a main sanctuary — since 1961. 

No request made yet for park space for potential new police station

Park officials also told residents during the late May session that no request has been made to use park district property for the potential new Wilmette Police Department station. 

Following the public comment portion of the meeting, board Vice President Patrick Duffy responded to a commentator’s question asking if park land, such as Vattman Park, might be considered as an option for the site.

“To our knowledge, there’s been no request from us to use any park space for a police station to this point, including specifically Vattman Park,” Duffy said. 

As previously reported by The Record, Wilmette officials kickstarted the process for exploring a new police station in May of last year when the village’s board of trustees approved a needs assessment and land use study. 

Since, a village committee has also studied Illinois communities to learn what others have done to address aging facilities, The Record reported earlier this year

The public safety committee is expected to present an update on its proceedings to the village board of trustees at the board’s Tuesday, June 25 meeting, according to the agenda. 

The Village has devoted resources to exploring the possibility of a new police station for more than 20 years. According to a memo from Police Chief Kyle Murphy, space studies were conducted in both 2002 and 2007 to review the department’s existing facility and determine how much added square footage is needed.

Those studies determined that 50,000 square feet was needed to meet the needs of the Wilmette community. Findings also indicated that the department needs more space to improve “function, workflow, circulation and security,” village records show.

Police officials also said the studies identified needed upgrades to bring the department’s station into compliance with regulatory requirements.

Wilmette’s current police station at 710 Ridge Road opened in 1968 at just over 16,500 square feet, according to village documents. Eighteen years later, a 3,500-square-foot addition — containing a women’s locker room, prisoner intake area, fitness facility, and administrative and records spaces — was built to the south end of the facility.

Village officials released the findings of a Village-commissioned study with contractor FGM Architects on the Wilmette police station, which was conducted earlier this year. The study recommended a new building triple in size at a projected cost between $52.98 million and $57 million.

While a potential budget for the project has not been finalized, recent village documents show a budget projection of $34 million for the new police station, if officials opted to move forward. 

Wilmette trustees recently approved during their June 11 meeting a resolution for owner’s representative pre-design services for the police station project at a cost of $65,000.

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martin carlino
Martin Carlino

Martin Carlino is a co-founder and the senior editor who assigns and edits The Record stories, while also bylining articles every week. Martin is an experienced and award-winning education reporter who was the editor of The Northbrook Tower.

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