Arlington Heights might have seen its last snow sculpture by Fran Volz. After 24 years in an old house on South Arlington Heights Road, the artist says he will be forced to move out of town in a few weeks.
The village's loss is probably Elgin's gain.
Volz's permanent works include the bronze eternal flame in Memorial Park and sculpture of William H. Dunton, founder of Arlington Heights, at Arlington Heights Road and Northwest Highway.
But Volz is probably best known for the elaborate snow sculptures outside his home and studio at 1525 S. Arlington Heights Road.
They began with a Smurf in 1987 and have ranged from Abraham Lincoln to Marilyn Monroe. He also started an international snow sculpture contest that is held annually at Navy Pier and has created religious snow sculptures at churches in Mount Prospect and Barrington, and a patriotic one for his dentist in downtown Arlington Heights.
His last snow sculpture at home was probably a few years ago, said Volz, who cited the lack of snow this year.
Volz said about two weeks ago he got a notice from Banco Popular, now known as Community Popular Bank, that he should leave his home in a month. A spokeswoman for the bank could not provide information about the property by deadline.
"It's looking like I will move to Elgin," said Volz. "I'm going to be renting a room in an older house near the downtown, and they have a garage where I can work on my project."
His current project, which he estimates will take two years, involves a pair of 8-foot-tall robots that will fight according to commands from "captains" in separate high-tech chairs. It's a larger, more modern version of boxing robots he played with as a youngster, like a video game but three-dimensional.
"It's been my dream for 15 years," said the 53-year-old Volz, who already has sponsors and promises to "settle down" after completing it.
Volz believes the bank wants to tear down four buildings it owns on the 1500 block of South Arlington Heights Road, including his home. The other buildings are vacant, and they use well and septic systems rather than village water and sewer, he said.
While the land is zoned for single-family homes, the village's long-range plan calls for offices there, said Matt Dabrowski, development planner with the village. Village approval of development plans would be required before a demolition permit is issued, he said. And if something other than single-family homes are planned, rezoning would be required. No demolition application has been filed, said James McAlister, director of health and building.
"This is not a normal move," said Volz. "I have sculptures big and small and molds that take up big boxes."
For example, the mold for the "Book of Dreams" at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library is 10 feet tall.
"I'll probably leave some things behind," he said. "I rented a storage locker and whatever doesn't fit in there I'll just leave."
Volz received rent credit for taking care of the four buildings when they were acquired by a developer several years ago, and the bank continued that when it foreclosed on the property, he said.
Volz has done work on his house and especially mourns the remodeling he just finished on the bathroom.
"It's sad, but maybe this will turn into something," he said. "Elgin is big into the arts, too. I'd like to thank everybody for all the years of coming by and giving me support and taking pictures and bringing kids over."