Hazel Crest may add to a golf course abandoned by Homewood

Initial talks are underway about a possible annexation and redevelopment of Calumet Country Club that would bring the property to Hazel Crest, according to Mayor Vernard Alsberry.

So far, no formal application for annexation has been made, and Alsberry said Thursday he is waiting to see a proposal on how to develop the property.

The 130-acre property, northwest of Dixie Highway and 175th Street, is located in unincorporated Cook County after Homewood officials voted, in April 2021, to allow the country club to abandon the village.

It came after village officials rejected plans to redevelop the property on up to 800,000 square feet of warehouse space, a project that angered nearby residents worried about truck traffic and the potential loss of the value of their homes.

A grassroots organization, South Suburbs for Greenspace, which formed when Homewood was considering redevelopment plans, has released documents it received from Hazel Crest, through the state’s Freedom of Information Act, that show correspondence and meetings in recent months related to a possible inclusion of Hazel Summit.

It’s not clear what the latest development proposal is, but emails indicate that a hotel, water park, and a few retail and warehouse uses are being proposed. Officials confirmed the documents released by Greenspace.

The correspondence includes emails between John Murphy, a Hazel Crest village attorney, Hazel Crest Village director Dante Sawyer, Chicago attorney Langdon Neal, and Curtis Thompson with a company called Catalyst Consulting.

Arizona-based Diversified Partners paid $3.3 million in fall 2020 for the golf course property, before Homewood rejected the development plans.

The golf course was founded in 1901 and attached to Homewood in 1980. It was open to the public for golf.

Murphy said Thursday that while there were talks with Neal and Catalyst about a possible annexation, nothing had been submitted to the village council, which Alsberry confirmed on Thursday.

“Catalyst has indicated that it will come forward with something” regarding the annexation proposal, Murphy said.

Al-Sebery said Catalyst officials told him they were considering a mixed-use development that did not have a large concentration of repositories.

“Something more positive than concrete and trucks,” Al-Sibiri said.

“We don’t want 150 acres of trucking,” Al-Sebeiri said. “It doesn’t help anyone.”

The mayor said he’s heard that items including retail, sports stadiums, a hotel and a water park are among the plans.

Earlier this year, Catalyst reported plans to include a 200,000-square-foot “automated turnkey housing facility” to produce doors and windows for manufactured homes. Indoor farming and possibly a hotel to accommodate visitors to the planned casino on the borders of East Hazel Crest and Homewood were part of the company’s plans.

A youth sports complex, a dog park, restaurants and possibly a bank and café are also part of the proposal, along with a facility to “train and prepare people” for the 1,000 permanent jobs the development is expected to create, according to a letter from Catalyst to Greenspace’s southern suburbs.

Neither Murphy nor Alspery were sure if Catalyst was acting on behalf of Diversified, the property’s owner.

Letters left Thursday for Catalyst, Diversified and Neal, the attorney representing Catalyst, were not immediately returned.

A project of the varying size or stimulus he proposed would need to secure essential components to make it work such as water and sewage, something that might come from a connection to a neighboring suburb.

Another obstacle to trying to develop in unincorporated Cook County is that during her tenure, Cook County Board Chair Toni Preckwinkle has prioritized the consolidation of separate estates into incorporated communities.

In one email South Suburbs for Greenspace released to the public, Murphey notes that the property is not a master development because there is no access to municipal facilities, unless it is incorporated into the surrounding community. Hazel Crest abuts the property on three sides and appears to be a natural choice after being taken down by Homewood.

The July email casts doubt on proposals such as retail being proposed along a strip of Dixie Highway, as well as a hotel or youth sports stadium, the attorney says in a note to Alsberry and Dante Sawyer, the village manager. Other emails show that village trustees have been invited to separate meetings to discuss the possibility of annexation and redevelopment.

Murphy says in a July 11 email that he doesn’t think there is any market for hotels, considering the number of hotels to the east of Hazel Crest off the intersection of Interstates 80/94 and Halstead Street. This is also where a casino that includes a hotel is planned.

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The lawyer also notes that a water park has been introduced in the plots of the property, and he doubts the feasibility of such a project, according to the email.

“What market is there for such a facility and who will invest?” Asked.

Murphy said Thursday that property owners will likely want to create a tax increase funding area, which will be a lengthy process and include hiring Hazel Crest outside consultants to help.

If annexation and the TIF zone are considered, Hazel Crest may seek compensation from the developer for those costs, Murphy said Thursday. He said such repayment is a “typical element of negotiations”.

Both Murphey and Alsberry said they did not have much familiarity with Catalyst principles and could not determine if the company was affiliated with Diversified. The mayor said he spoke with Thompson from Catalyst.

Murphy said that if the annexation proposal was submitted to Hazel Crest, he would need to include the property registry owner.

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