One question remains after the park district acquired a six-acre property near Techny Prairie Park and Fields in August 2011.
What will replace the former Anetsberger factory?
Based on the results of a park district survey released Thursday, it appears that a significant number of Northbrook residents would support the construction of a new community center at the site.
“This has been and always will be a community-driven process,” said executive director Rick Hanetho.
This winter, the park district hired consultant Leisure Vision, which sent out questionnaires to a random sampling of 3,000 Northbrook households between January and February. Leisure Vision has conducted surveys for several park districts around the North Shore and conducted the Northbrook Park District’s extensive community survey in 2009. The 2012 survey cost $14,800, according to Ann Ziolkowski, director of marketing and communications for the park district.
Mailed on Jan. 9, the survey asked residents how often they visited local parks, whether they knew that the park district had acquired the former Anetsberger site and whether they would use a community center located there. It also asked whether residents would support a referendum to build and operate a community center, renovate the Leisure Center and conduct improvements to Sportsman’s Country Club, along with other questions.
Among the survey’s 678 respondents, 42 percent said they were very supportive of developing a community center at the former Anetsberger site, while 21 percent said they were somewhat supportive of the proposal. All told, 74 percent said they would use such a center at least once a month.
“Our survey results validate that our adult population wants space,” said Hanetho, who noted an increase demand for services targeted at seniors as the community ages. “Now how do we make that happen?”
Based on the survey, the top four features residents would support at a community center include a fitness area; aerobics, fitness and dance studio; lap pool for exercise; and an elevated walking and jogging track.
Hanetho said he had visited indoor tracks in Highland Park and Glenview in the middle of the day on a weekday and observed that they were filled with people. According to the survey, a walking and jogging track was the No. 1 choice of the greatest number of people.
“That’s what people are screaming for,” Hanetho said.
The survey also gauged community interest in supporting the projects via tax revenues or user fees. Hanetho said that the park district does not have enough funds in reserve to pay for a new community center, renovations at Sportsman’s and at the Leisure Center. The Park District's 2011-12 budget called for $22.2 million in expenditures and $20.8 million in revenue, with the difference being made up by reserves. Hanetho estimated that the district had roughly $9 million in reserves before the $2.1 million Anetsberger purchase.
“For the most part, typical community centers are not centers that return a net surplus,” he added.
According to the survey, 36 percent of respondents would vote in favor of a referendum to build and operate a community center and to renovate the leisure center, while 22 percent might vote in favor, 21 percent were not sure and 21 percent would vote against such a measure.
If funding for renovations to Sportsman’s Country Club were included in a referendum, 49 percent of respondents said they would be less likely to vote in favor of the property tax increase, while 17 percent said they would be more likely, 22 percent said they would be equally likely and 13 percent were not sure.
“It really helps set the foundation of what the community priorities are moving forward,” Hanetho said.
The park district will continue gathering community input on the former Anetsberger property and future park district projects through meetings this spring with local stakeholders such as the village and the North Suburban YMCA. It will also hold three public forums at the Leisure Center from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. March 7 and 8 and from 2 to 4 p.m. March 13. Residents are asked to reserve a spot in the forum in advance online or by calling the park district at 847-897-6105.
Hanetho said demolition of the former Anetsberger site had yet to be scheduled, but the park district’s board of directors did approve a contract for the demolition on Thursday.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include a preferred phone number and a specific figure for the survey's cost.