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Planning board to consider plans for Sabre Room site

  • Written by Joe Boyle

The Hickory Hills Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals will hold a public hearing on Monday night to discuss a special use zoning for development plans at the site of the now closed Sabre Room.

The meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Hickory Hills City Hall, 8652 W. 95th St.

The zoning change proposal would allow the property, at 8900 W. 95th St., to become a Planned Unit Development. The approval of the project would essentially allow for construction along the lines of the developer’s preliminary plans. The early stages of the project would include senior housing and retail space along 95th Street. Detention areas would be designed along 95th Street and behind the retail locations.

“Modifications in that plan may be made later on, but the changes must be relatively minor and not radically depart from the preliminary plan,” said Ald. Tom McAvoy (3rd Ward).

If those changes change dramatically from the submitted idea, the developer would risk disapproval of building permits. The city could halt the development entirely.

The zoning commission will either recommend the developer’s preliminary plan or report its recommendation for the Hickory Hills City Council. The city council may reject or adopt the recommendation of the zoning commission.

“The city council has the final decision-making authority in this matter – period,” said McAvoy. Brian Fonte is the other 3rd Ward alderman.

Aldermen and Mayor Mike Howley have been in discussion through many emails with the developers about their plans.

“We think it is fair to say that we were not impressed or very satisfied with the developer’s initial plans for the residential area,” said McAvoy. The approximate 10-acre part of the property is just west of the Sabre Room main building.

“To their credit, the developer came back with major revisions regarding that part of the project,” said McAvoy. “Those changes addressed many of our concerns.”

The Sabre Woods project would take in 30 acres, according to the developers. They said the property is ideal for development on the rolling land contours and the elevated views. The project would include wetlands and woodlands that interconnect with the new building areas.

The developers said that details have been discussed and will include storm water management. According to the engineers, they have taken into account several site challenges that include flooding and drainage will be improved. The developers said they will provide for circulation of vehicles, commercial, pedestrian and bicycle traffic on nearby local streets. The Sabre Woods Senior Village is being designed for residents ages 55 and older.

A first meeting was held this past Wednesday night at the St. Patricia Parish Center in Hickory Hills.

During Monday’s meeting will be a briefing by the development team on the land uses, buildings, facilities, layout and infrastructure improvements proposed for the property. The team will be composed of principals and senior staff of the property, Koziarz Group II; the developer (Chicagoland Realty Executives) and the project manager (ReTown).

During the first meeting with developers, McAvoy insisted that the developers conduct presentations and answer questions from residents before any city council consideration. Fonte and Howley were in agreement with that suggestion, said McAvoy.

The Sabre Room was 67 years old when the doors closed for the final time at the end of May. In 1949, Arnold and Marie Muzzarelli founded the family-owned business on the site of the luxury Dynell Springs Spa.

In recent years, it had been known for holding wedding receptions, New Year’s Eve parties, debutante galas and other celebrations in its various rooms. In its heyday, with space for up to 2,500 people, it was a popular concert venue for top stars such as Frank Sinatra in 1976 and Dean Martin in 1977. Liberace, Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour and Rudy Vallee all appeared there over the years as well.

By Joe Boyle

The Hickory Hills Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals will hold a public hearing on Monday night to discuss a special use zoning for development plans at the site of the now closed Sabre Room.

The meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Hickory Hills City Hall, 8652 W. 95th St.

The zoning change proposal would allow the property, at 8900 W. 95th St., to become a Planned Unit Development. The approval of the project would essentially allow for construction along the lines of the developer’s preliminary plans. The early stages of the project would include senior housing and retail space along 95th Street. Detention areas would be designed along 95th Street and behind the retail locations.

“Modifications in that plan may be made later on, but the changes must be relatively minor and not radically depart from the preliminary plan,” said Ald. Tom McAvoy (3rd Ward).

If those changes change dramatically from the submitted idea, the developer would risk disapproval of building permits. The city could halt the development entirely.

The zoning commission will either recommend the developer’s preliminary plan or report its recommendation for the Hickory Hills City Council. The city council may reject or adopt the recommendation of the zoning commission.

“The city council has the final decision-making authority in this matter – period,” said McAvoy. Brian Fonte is the other 3rd Ward alderman.

Aldermen and Mayor Mike Howley have been in discussion through many emails with the developers about their plans.

“We think it is fair to say that we were not impressed or very satisfied with the developer’s initial plans for the residential area,” said McAvoy. The approximate 10-acre part of the property is just west of the Sabre Room main building.

“To their credit, the developer came back with major revisions regarding that part of the project,” said McAvoy. “Those changes addressed many of our concerns.”

The Sabre Woods project would take in 30 acres, according to the developers. They said the property is ideal for development on the rolling land contours and the elevated views. The project would include wetlands and woodlands that interconnect with the new building areas.

The developers said that details have been discussed and will include storm water management. According to the engineers, they have taken into account several site challenges that include flooding and drainage will be improved. The developers said they will provide for circulation of vehicles, commercial, pedestrian and bicycle traffic on nearby local streets. The Sabre Woods Senior Village is being designed for residents ages 55 and older.

A first meeting was held this past Wednesday night at the St. Patricia Parish Center in Hickory Hills.

During Monday’s meeting will be a briefing by the development team on the land uses, buildings, facilities, layout and infrastructure improvements proposed for the property. The team will be composed of principals and senior staff of the property, Koziarz Group II; the developer (Chicagoland Realty Executives) and the project manager (ReTown).

During the first meeting with developers, McAvoy insisted that the developers conduct presentations and answer questions from residents before any city council consideration. Fonte and Howley were in agreement with that suggestion, said McAvoy.

The Sabre Room was 67 years old when the doors closed for the final time at the end of May. In 1949, Arnold and Marie Muzzarelli founded the family-owned business on the site of the luxury Dynell Springs Spa.

In recent years, it had been known for holding wedding receptions, New Year’s Eve parties, debutante galas and other celebrations in its various rooms. In its heyday, with space for up to 2,500 people, it was a popular concert venue for top stars such as Frank Sinatra in 1976 and Dean Martin in 1977. Liberace, Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour and Rudy Vallee all appeared there over the years as well.

Model railroad show at Richards delights both young and old

  • Written by Kelly White

 

colleen stedman photo 10-13

Photo by Kelly White

Oak Lawn resident Colleen Stedman and her son, Joshua, 1, enjoy the 14th Annual Southland Model Railroad Show at Richards High School in Oak Lawn on Saturday.

All aboard.

The Richards High School Performing Arts Department held its 14th Annual Southland Model Railroad Show this past weekend at the school, 10601 S. Central Ave., Oak Lawn.

It is the only event of its kind in the south suburban region that featured 16 different clubs and train layouts. It is known as the largest in the Chicago metro area, according to District 218 Public Information Specialist, Bob McParland.

“My sons love everything about trains, so when we heard of this event, we knew right away that we had to come,” said Colleen Stedman, of Oak Lawn. “What first sparked their interest in trains is the train around the Christmas tree that my husband puts up every year. Since then, their fascination has grown.”

Participating this year were several model railroads exhibitors, including: Venture Crew 57, Blackhawk Chapter NRHS, LGB MRRCC, Midwest N Pioneer Model RR Club, John Massura, Northwest Society of Engineers, Kane County Model RR Club, Jeff Viens/ Legos, British Train Society, Hertiage N-Track, Dupage Division NMRA, Midwest Rails, North Shore 4 Western Modular Club, CASG, Bolingbrook RR Club and Midwest Division TCA.

The family-friendly event also featured model train displays and operating layouts for all ages, Lego trains, and a riding train for children, train races for children and a children train-related interactive activities.

“I love Thomas the Train,” said Isaac Gungor, 4, of New Lenox.

Gungor’s love for Thomas brought him and his family, mother, Rebecca Gungor; grandma, Virginia Ebrier, of Oak Lawn; and great-grandparents, Joan and Richard Brinnehl, of Palos Heights, together on Saturday afternoon.

“He loves anything to do with trains, but especially Thomas the Train,” his mother said. “He could easily stand and watch the model trains go by all day long.”

Another young train enthusiast was 3-year-old Sean Mollenhauer, of Oak Brook, who attended with his father, John Mollenhauer.

“I personally don’t have much interest in trains besides taking the train to work every day,” Mollenhauer joked. “But my son is very interested in them.”

Charles Martin, the band director at Richards, was responsible for organizing the event, along with parents in the music boosters organization.

“It is a truly unique event,” Martin said. “When I came here in 1995, I was looking for a unique event to be a fundraiser and a parent suggested this idea to me.”

The parent Marin was referring to is Mike LaBeau, who still helps out with the event 14 years later -- long after his children have graduated from Richards.

“I like the uniqueness of the event and I am always amazed at the clubs and how dedicated to their layouts,” Martin said. “Some take almost three hours to set up. Over the last 14 years the Southland Model Train Show has been a great event, and everyone that attended was able to see cool layouts and the new technology that they are using like wireless controls. The Lego people always surprise me with constantly adding new additions to their layouts.”

With the largest train layout measuring 100 feet, the event took up half the school, from the cafe, the school’s main gym, gym stage and auxiliary gym.

The cost of admission was $6 for adults, $5 for senior citizens with children age 12 and under attending free. Participants were also able to enjoy vendors, concessions and free parking with all proceeds support the Richards Performing Arts Department.

Described by Bob McParland, District 218 spokesperson, as the school’s biggest fundraiser of the year, the event gathered 2,000 attendees of all ages.

“The monies raised help fund the biannual trip for the performing arts, (the) band, choir and drama,” Martin said. “In June 2017 the HLR band, HLR choir and HLR Drama will travel to Orlando, Fla., to perform at Disney World. We travel every other year, and this is a travel year for us.”

 

Author's ghost stories draw a frightfully curious crowd

  • Written by Joe Boyle

ursulas brick photo 10-13

Photo by Joe Boyle

Author Ursula BIelski holds a brick that she said was part of the warehouse wall in which the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre took place in 1929 on Chicago’s North Side.

Ursula Bielski always enjoyed a good ghost story, a tradition that was passed on to her by her father and other relatives.

Bielski, author, historian and parapsychologist, shared some of those stories and reported sightings of ghosts before 90 people at the Green Hills Library in Palos Hills on Oct. 3. She is the author of several books including “Chicago Haunts,” “More Chicago Haunts” and “Graveyards of Chicago.” Her father was a Chicago police lieutenant. She even believes her old home was haunted.

She grew up on Chicago’s North Side but did admit a preference as she spoke to the large audience.

“I was fascinated by the South Side of Chicago. I realized that’s where the best ghost stories are,” she said.

Bielski then passed along details of Resurrection Mary. Different stories attributed to Resurrection Mary date back to the 1930s and 1920s.

Stories of a young woman dressed in a white dress hitchhiking alongside Archer Avenue near the cemetery have been told over the years. According to folklore, the young girl has been picked up by drivers and does not engage in any conversation. Some of these drivers reported that she just disappears. According to Bielski, stories have her entering vehicles only to later open the passenger door and run to the entrance gates of Resurrection Cemetery along Archer Avenue and disappear.

A report on Resurrection Mary appeared on “It’s Incredible” on ABC-TV in the 1980s. During that program, a man driving in from Summit reported that he did pick up a young woman hitchhiking along Archer Avenue in Justice. She suddenly opened the passenger door and she races toward the cemetery gates and disappeared. Bielski relates another segment from that show in which a truck driver reported seeing a young woman clutching the cemetery gates. The truck driver stopped his vehicle and arrived at the gate, but the young woman dressed in white seemingly vanished.

The truck driver then drove to the Justice police station. He returned with a Justice police officer, who examined the gates. According to the program, portions of the gates were burned and the small fingerprints were visible. The truck driver and Justice police officer reported seeing the burned gates and fingerprints. Bielski said the gates had been replaced several times only to have the burned indentations continuously reappear. Five years, ago, the gates were sprayed gold, BIelski said.

The identity of Resurrection Mary has narrowed down to two young women, Bielski said. Mary Bregovy was from Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood. She had been dancing at the O Henry Ballroom (which became the Willowbrook Ballroom in 1959) that evening in 1934 and was later killed in a car crash on Lake Street and Wacker Drive. According to Bielski, some of Mary’s friends said they had seen her after she died along Archer Avenue near Resurrection Cemetery.

Anna Norkus, 12, lived in Chicago’s Garfield Ridge neighborhood and went out dancing one evening on July 20, 1927. She was accompanied by her father, relatives and friends. Unfortunately, according to Bielski, the adults drank too much that night. She died in a car crash after leaving the dance. Many believe that she is Resurrection Mary, Bielski said.

Bielski is also fascinated with the old Bachelors Grove cemetery. Her latest book is titled “Haunted Bachelors Grove.” The cemetery is located just off 143rd Street in Rubio Woods between Ridgeland Avenue on the west and Central Avenue on the east. Bielski had taken a tour of the old cemetery grounds. She returned another night at the suggestion of a friend, who had links to the cemetery.

Now BIelski admits that since this is part of the Cook County Forest Preserves, it is closed at night. She told the audience that they should not enter the grounds in the evening. But in a sense of adventure, she traveled through the cemetery grounds with her friend on a sweltering night. Bielski said they saw a mysterious set of lights that they could not tell where it originated from. The two got lost when they tried to retrace their steps and took over four hours to leave.

“My friend knows every inch of that cemetery but could not explain how we got lost,” said Bielski.

Bielski had also received reports of other people seeing bright lights that could not be accounted for and those travelers also became lost for hours.

“I have never been so scared in my life,” said Bielski, who said the spirit that haunts Bachelors Grove is malicious.

Even the notorious Al Capone was not immune to ghostly visits, said Bielski. Legend has it that Capone complained to guards while he was in prison that he was visited by Jimmy Clark, the brother-in-law of his nemesis, Bugs Moran. Clark was murdered in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre on Chicago’s North Side in 1929. Moran was one of the intended targets but he did not accompany members of his gang who were killed that day. Capone reportedly wanted Moran eliminated. Bielski showed the audience a brick that she said was once part of the since demolished building where the murders took place.

Bielski said Chicago’s North Side has its share of supernatural tales including Lincoln Park Zoo, which she said is haunted due to the fact that this was a cemetery before the Great Fire of 1871. She recalls one story in 1933 in which a Chicago cabdriver picked up an elderly nun who he took to Columbus Hospital. As the nun entered the building, she left a Bible in the back seat. The driver took the Bible and entered the hospital looking for the nun.

A group of sisters greeted him and seemed to know who the nun was. They told him that she is St. Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini, who founded their order and the hospital. They informed the cabdriver that she is dead but this happens all the time.

Chicago Ridge resident is selected as Cook County Board 6th District Commissioner

  • Written by Joe Boyle

ed moody photo 10-13

Moody

 

 

Ed Moody was selected as the unanimous choice to become the new Cook County Board of Commissioner for the 6th District.

He is replacing Joan Murphy, who served on the Cook County Board since 2002. She died Sept. 18 after a long bout with breast cancer. She was 79.

Moody, the Worth Township Highway Commissioner, was selected over several other candidates Saturday at the Leonard Robinson Family Center in Richton Park. He made his presentation before a panel of eight 6th District committeemen.

The other candidates were Antoine Bass, of Richton Park, president of the Rich Township High District 227 School Board; John A. Daly, of Oak Forest, vice chairman of the South Suburban College Community College District 510 Board; Donna Miller, of Lynwood, who works in the biotech/pharmaceutical industry and is the wife of former 29th District state Rep. David Miller; Tricia Murphy, of Crestwood, daughter of Joan Murphy; Ed Paesel, of Sauk Village, executive director of the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association; and Crestwood Mayor Lou Presta.

Committeemen stated that Moody is replacing someone who was elected from Worth Township by voters in the last election. Committeemen believe that Moody meets the choice of the voters from the area.

"There were a lot of good, strong candidates that were considered,” said Thornton Township Committeeman Frank Zuccarelli. “We felt that Mr. Moody was the total package for the 6th District.”

Moody's credentials include serving as the current chairman of the Worth Township Fair Housing Committee, past president of Chicago Ridge School District 127.5, and president of the governing board for the Eisenhower Special Education Co-op.

Committeemen also pointed out that that he has worked with elected officials in all areas represented by the district. He is familiar with the budget needs of the district and how the county budget impacts the local municipal and township budgets, the committeemen added.

Moody said his experience in negotiating and drafting budgets give him an edge as the next 6th District Commissioner. He added that his experience in dealing with unions would be a plus.

“I think that going down to Springfield, I would have some advantages that maybe some others don’t,” said Moody, pointing to his 25 years go managing campaigns and getting out the vote.

Moody and Vicki, his wife of 21 years, reside in Chicago Ridge. They have raised their nephew Ryan for the last 13 years. He is currently an administrator with the chief judge at the Bridgeview Courthouse. He is a former technician engineer for the Cook County Highway Department.

Cook County’s 6th District includes portions of Chicago Ridge, Hickory Hills, Oak Lawn, Palos Heights and Worth.

Moraine faculty and staff helps add final touches to ‘Haunted Hills of Palos’

  • Written by Michael Gilbert

The only thing more frightening than the scary hayride planned for the Haunted Hills of Palos event later this month at Pleasure Lake may have been the path for the ride to traverse.

The trail around Pleasure Lake, which is the route for the hayride, has become more of a mud trail – especially when it rains – as the wood chips that cover the trail have eroded from the cold and wet winter and rainy spring leaving only dirt and grass, city officials said last week.

The Haunted Hills of Palos, which is sponsored by the city’s community resource and recreation department, is to take place the weekend of Oct. 28-29, and figures to draw a large crowd as in addition to the hayride attendees will be able to enjoy a variety of concessions including pizza and s’mores, according to Kristin Violante, the city’s commissioner of community resources and recreation.

A muddy trail would not have made for much fun at the event, which runs from 6-9 p.m. on both days, Violante said.

Enter the faculty and staff at Moraine Valley Community College, who, as part of the college’s Community Learning Day, spent more than three hours on Oct. 4 placing 75 cubic yards of wood chips around the trail at the lake, 10801 S. Roberts Road.

“It was awesome timing because we have the Halloween event coming up there and without (the staff of MVCC) there is no way we could have gotten it prepared,” Violante said after the city council last Thursday. “Not only does the hayride go on the trail but people have to walk to get on (the ride) and if the path wasn’t paved with the wood chips and it rained it would have been all muddy. Now the wagons have a nice surface and the people walking to the wagons have a nice surface.”

Tickets for the hay ride are $5 for adults and $3 for those under 10 years old. From 6-7 p.m. on both nights a “non-scary” hayride will take place.

Ald. Ricky Moore (4th Ward) is a member of the Moraine Valley Community College faculty and was one of the volunteers working at Pleasure Lake. Moore said he was more than pleased with the results.

“It looks nice because it was pretty much dirt when we started,” he said. “I was about 10 minutes late to get back to the bus (to return to Moraine Valley after we were done working) and I just told people I got lost because the walking trail was covered by wood chips. It really does look so much better.

“Pleasure Lake is probably one of the best kept secrets in Palos Hills, and I’d say we enhanced the beauty and safety there.”

Moore said Community Learning Day organizers approached Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett about different tasks that could be completed in town and after Bennett met with Public Works Commissioner Dave Weakley, the project at Pleasure Lake was decided upon. MVCC staff also volunteered their time at The Little Red Schoolhouse, Sertoma Centre and at local food pantries and animal shelters, Moore said.

The mulch used to cover the trail came from branches collected by the city’s chipper service, Moore said. The city’s public works department collects branches from single-family homes at various times throughout the year.

“It’s nice because we kind of recycle,” Moore said of placing the chips at Pleasure Lake.

The work completed by the MVCC staff received praise from Ald. Mark Brachman (2nd Ward) during the meeting.

“The trail is now in tip-top shape,” he said.

Moore expects he and his co-workers to return to Pleasure Lake in 2017 to once again enhance the trail.

“As they say ‘If the good Lord’s willing and the creeks don’t rise,’ we will be there next year,” Moore said.