Rep. Tim Ozinga introduced the legislation on Thursday, and if passed, would force the sale of the center to Tinley Park for redevelopment.
This article originally appeared on Patch.com
TINLEY PARK, IL — Illinois State Representative Tim Ozinga (R-Mokena) introduced new legislation that if passed, would force the sale of the Tinley Park Mental Health Center to Tinley Park. The House Bill (HB 3011) authorizes the Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS) to transfer the property to the village at a fair market value for possible economic development.
The facility closed in 2012 and was the last of 13 state facilities of its kind built. An inspection of the Mental Health Center, 7400 183rd St, took place in early 2020, revealing the property has numerous environmental concerns.
All buildings on the long-vacant property at the northwest corner of 183rd and Harlem were found to be filled with asbestos and black mold, an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency inspection found in December 2019. Various barrels of unlabeled contaminants were also found throughout the property.
Ozinga introduced HB 3011 on Thursday, and it is currently awaiting committee assignments.
"For nine years, this state-owned property has sat vacant and become the most notable eye-sore in Tinley Park. Development efforts have failed in the past; however, that is no excuse for the state to retain the property. It's time to get it into the hands of the local people so they can do what they want with it before the cost of remediating the growing hazards becomes too costly for anyone," Rep. Ozinga stated in a news release.
Ozinga represents the 37th district, which does not include The Tinley Park Mental Health Center.
"This is out of my district, but I still felt the need to take the initiative because, regardless of district lines, this is my community."
Tinley Park Village Manager Dave Niemeyer told Patch the village was unaware of the newly introduced legislation, but said this is something the village had been wanting to acquire for years.
"It is something we certainly want. We're interested in acquiring it and there's no question about that," Niemeyer said.
The village manager said there is "definitely developmental interest" with the site, but added he was not ready to disclose what just yet.
Tinley Park falls in the 38th District, overseen by Illinois State Representative Debbie Meyers-Martin. Meyers-Martin said a clean-up of the property is her biggest concern.
"I believe that there must be a complete environmental clean-up to this aforementioned property in order to assure the health and well-being of the residents of Tinley Park. At this point, that would be my biggest concern, and I would welcome that conversation as well," Meyers-Martin told Patch via email. "I would love to meet with Village Officials and discuss all the opportunities available for such a prime parcel of land."
A plan in 2019 for the state to sell the property to the village, who would then sell it to a group that would clean it up and construct a horse track and casino, went awry. Those plans were nixed in October 2019, when Pritzker's administration team informed the village they opted not to sell the property at the time.
In June 2020, the state allocated nearly $17 million in funds for projects and improvements around Tinley Park. The Mental Health Center was the largest project, receiving $15 million in the form of a grant to support the costs associated with environmental cleanup.
In an October 2020 Joint Review Board Meeting in Tinley Park, officials expressed their continued interest in the site for redevelopment purposes, concerns regarding conditions and environmental issues, and the pending status of the state of Illinois' decision on what to do with the vacant facility.
"The Village of Tinley Park has been poised to develop this property for a couple of years now, even in previous administrations," Mayor of Tinley Park Jacob Vandenberg said at the October meeting. "It would be helpful to have a cooperative state government that would be looking to move the vacant property — which is a surplus in their eyes — and clean it up to make it what it needs to be, which is a valuable development that will spur positive economic growth for our community and ultimately make the state look good as well."
The facility opened in 1959 and Tinley Park annexed the property in 1967. The site was designed by Skidmore, Owens & Merrill and has two buildings: Maple Hall, built in 1967, and Spruce Hall, built in 1965.
Take a look at the newly introduced legislation on the Illinois General Assembly website, here.