Northbrook’s biggest public green space is about to get a little bit bigger.
The Park District's board of commissioners approved a $2.1 million contract to purchase a six-acre parcel of land adjacent to Techny Park and Prairie, where the building that once housed the former Anetsberger Brothers factory now sits. Money for the purchase, which was voted on last week, came from district reserves.
“It’s a really great asset for the community,” said executive director Rick Hanetho, who met with Patch at the Park District’s headquarters Thursday.
The Park District bought the site from the Anetsberger family, which operated a food equipment manufacturing business there until 2009, when the company was sold. For more than 60 years, Anetsberger Brothers operated out of its Northbrook headquarters, which included a golf course and extensive grounds for employees where Techny Park and Prairie now stands today.
The Anetsberger family offered a 60-acre parcel, including the employee golf course, to the Park District in 1999. Voters approved a $15.5 million tax referendum for the sale in 2000, and the property became Techny Park and Prairie, with its nature trail, golf course, fishing pond, skate park and recreation fields.
“Over a decade ago, we decided that one of the best ways to give back to the community was to sell this property to the Park District,” family member Jim Anetsberger said in a press release. “We are proud of the legacy we have built in the community, the improvements the Park District has performed so far and are excited about the future potential of this additional property.”
When the Park District signed the contract with the Anetsberger family, they negotiated an option to buy the six-acre factory site if the family decided to sell the business. That option was triggered in April 2009, according to Hanetho.
“The Park District felt this was a vital piece of property that some day would be a great asset and investment for the community,” he said.
The timing of the family’s sale was convenient for the Park Distrct, Hanetho added. In 2008, the agency's board was considering a $7 million project to improve the front end of Sportsman’s Country Club. But rather than spend the money in a tough economy, board members decided to put the project on hold and seek community input on Park District priorities.
The district's administrators discovered that the Anetsberger property would be sold just before they were about to launch the survey.
“We recalibrated the questions to be a little more broad,” Hanetho said. “We weren’t able to acknowledge the option because it was all still in closed sessions.”
Hanetho said the Park District would likely close on buying the six-acre property in November. After that, the district will conduct a follow-up survey of residents to gather opinions on what should be done with the site. That will guide a public input process that should last through next year.
“The community will ultimately decide what’s on the property,” the agency's executive director said.
The possibilities are open-ended, he said, although the Park District will probably demolish the factory building once the deal is closed.
“The opportunity that the community now has to evaluate and look at how we use this six acres—this is really unique,” Hanetho said.
The Park District's 2011-12 budget calls 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 Anetsberger purchase.