Commentary, Community, Local, Schools

Merry Christmas! Rich East no Longer a Storage Yard for Matteson Warehouse

parking lot partially covered in snow with school building in the background
This empty parking lot behind Rich East had been totally filled with pallets of plastic foam. (Photo John Hudzik)

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- It took almost three months, but it appears that the parking lots of the former Rich East High School are finally free of the warehouse building supplies that were stored there. The only remnant of the storage is a single forklift parked behind the school, presumably waiting to be picked up. All the plastic foam pallets – of which there were hundreds – have been moved, as have the rolls of roofing materials and the temporary fencing that was put in place a month ago.

Northbound drivers on I-57 can now see that material placed around the perimeter of the warehouse under construction behind the Menards store on Cicero Avenue in Matteson. The development, Matteson 57 Commerce Center, is being constructed by Pepper Construction Company for the Crow Holdings development firm based in Texas.

snow covered parking lot with building to the left
Tire tracks from flatbed trucks carrying the building supplies from Rich East to the Matteson 57 Commerce Center can be seen in the snow. (Photo John Hudzik)

Rich Township High School District 227 originally advised the Village of Park Forest that the material was to be used for re-roofing the district schools. That information was later contradicted by a district spokesperson who acknowledged the material was for the warehouse construction.

Repeated requested by eNews Park Forest for information as to why the district gave permission to store construction materials for a commercial enterprise, not associated with the district, went unanswered, even when presented with a Freedom of Information Act request. At this point, it is unknown what rationale was used by the leadership of the district when granting permission, as well as what remuneration or consideration, if any, was received by the district in exchange.

Hopefully, the exposure this district decision received will cause their leadership to think twice before granting permission to use public property in such a cavalier manner, as well as providing misleading information to village officials. In addition, District 227 leadership will hopefully be more responsible and open to explaining their decisions rather than the “no comment” stance they adopted in this matter.

The closure of Rich East High School by the district in 2020 was a tough pill to swallow for Park Forest residents who were justifiably proud of their school. While there may have been sound financial reasons for the decision, there is no justification for allowing the property to become a commercial storage lot.

As previously reported in eNews Park Forest, there are tentative plans to build a vocational high school for the south suburbs, the Southland Career & Technical Education Center, on the Rich East property. That project remains in the planning stages.