Former Elgin school might become nature preserve
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A wildlife foundation wants to purchase the former Fox River Country Day School in Elgin and plans to donate part of the land to the city of Elgin and the Kane County Forest Preserve District.
Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation CEO Charles Potter said the foundation is in negotiations with First American Bank to purchase the 57-acre campus at 1600 Dundee Ave. near the Jane Addams Tollway. The school closed in summer 2011 after 98 years; a foreclosure judgment was entered in June 2012.
The McGraw Foundation is in unincorporated Kane County, adjacent to the former school campus. The foundation is leading the purchase negotiations on behalf of "a coalition of entities and individuals," Potter said, declining to provide specifics.
The city and the forest preserve district would get the land as a gift, he said.
"Our view is that this is a tremendous opportunity for the community, in that a significant piece of property will be in the community's hands as open space," he said.
Environmental protection laws would make residential or commercial redevelopment very difficult, Potter said.
Potter said he hopes the sale will be finalized in the coming days. He declined to comment on the sale price.
First American Bank President John Ward said he couldn't comment on pending negotiations. The property was listed for $4 million by commercial real estate broker CBRE, and is owned by American Real Estate Investments 7 LLC, he said.
Council members John Prigge and Robert Gilliam said the sale price being negotiated by the McGraw Foundation is about $2.8 million. The city council discussed the issue during executive session Wednesday night, they said.
The foundation will keep a portion of the property, which will be used for its outdoor education programming, Potter said. The city will get some land and all the buildings on the campus; the forest preserve district will get all the "ecologically significant areas" including fen wetlands, he said.
Assistant City Manager Rick Kozal said the city is reluctant to take on the land and its maintenance, but wants to be a good steward of natural resources.
"The main reason we're doing this is because the bank wants to sell the parcel as a whole, and this way the fen can be preserved," he said.
"It's a good chance to get a lot of land and maintain it and not develop on it," said Gilliam, who called the deal "wonderful."
Some buildings will be torn down, others might get fixed up, depending on the expense, he said.
City officials haven't discussed any specific uses for the property yet, Prigge and Gilliam said.
Prigge said he would like the property to remain open space, like the Hawthorne Hill Nature Center in Elgin.
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