Community, Local, Park Forest, Schools

What are the Mystery Packages Being Stored in the Rich East Parking Lots?

hundreds of white pallets in a parking lot, mysterious packages
Pallets of white plastic foam started appearing in the Rich East parking lots last month. (Photo: John Hudzik)

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- Drivers passing the former Rich East High School may notice that the parking lot off Sauk Trail is full of pallets containing mysterious tall white plastic foam packages wrapped in clear plastic. The large packages started appearing around a month ago and now fill the entire parking lot east of the building.

picture os stacjs of white pallets, rolls of material covered in brown, and a forklift
In addition to the white pallets, rolls of black material are now being stored in the parking lots. (Photo: John Hudzik)

In addition to the hundreds of white pallets of plastic foam, there are also large rolls of what appear to be black roofing materials. In recent days, at least one pallet has toppled over, and bits of plastic foam can be seen across the fields east of the school. The fallen pallet raises a concern as to whether the materials are being stored safely.

white pallets with one toppled over
This pallet has fallen and scattered bits of plastic foam across the Rich East field. (Photo: John Hudzik)

Inquiries on social media sites have asked what the material is and why it is being stored on property owned by Rich Township District 227. Commenters have suggested they may be stored for building work being done at other district schools or even part of a renovation of the Rich East building itself.

eNews Park Forest reached out to the leadership of District 227 to get an explanation.

According to Percy Scott, President of Global 360 Marketing, which represents District 227, the material is being stored for use in the construction of the Matteson 57 Commerce Center, located behind the Menards store on Cicero Avenue in Matteson. Scott said that Pepper Construction, the general contractor, uses the Rich East site to minimize travel time and expenses from its other locations. Scott said that removal of the materials from Rich East would begin by mid-December and be cleared by the first of the year.

The new Commerce Center will cover 758 thousand square feet on a 53-acre lot and be utilized as a warehouse and distribution center. It is being built by Crow Holdings, a Texas real estate investment, and development firm.

Scott was not sure if District 227 received any compensation for the use of the land but did say that, once completed, the Commerce Center is expected to employ 147 people from the community.

two walls of ahite pallets in a parking lot
The pallets of material have been multiplying with passing weeks. (Photo: John Hudzik)

Prior to receiving this information from Scott, eNews asked the Park Forest Village Manager Tom Mick, if the village knew why Rich East was being used as a storage site. Mick was not sure and had his staff reach out to district officials. They received a very different answer.

According to Mick, when village officials contacted the district, they were told that the materials were being used for reroofing the district schools and that the parking lots would be empty by the end of the calendar year.

To clarify the situation and determine what, if any, agreements may be in place between District 227 and the Commerce Center and/or Pepper Construction and/or Crow Holdings, eNews has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the district.

eNews will report the results of our FOIA request when they are received.