Since December, two very significant events have taken place that were critical for the ultimate gift of the Barat Campus property to Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart.
On December 20, 2011, the donors closed on the purchase of the Barat property. The Woodlands community is most thankful for the commitment exhibited by the donors since the initial August announcement of their intent to give the Barat property to Woodlands.
On Tuesday, February 21, 2012, the Lake Forest City Council unanimously approved the expansion of Woodlands’ Special Use permit for education to include the 23 acre Barat property. This was a major step in the process and paves the way for the demolition of Old Main and the ultimate transfer of the property to Woodlands.
Extensive discussions had been underway for several months between the City, representatives of the donors, and Woodlands. Several members of the Council applauded the work of all parties in getting to this point. One alderman remarked, “I say again, this is a great gift to the city.”
The Special Use Permit ordinance includes sections that:
Allow for the interim use of the Cooney Library and the creation of additional athletic fields.
Require Woodlands to develop and submit a Master Plan to the City.
Require a plan for Woodlands to protect and maintain ravines that run through the property.
Require a plan for Woodlands’ maintenance and stewardship of the Sacred Heart Cemetery.
Require a plan to move the entrance to Woodlands away from the Sheridan Road curve to enhance safety.
Require an overall traffic circulation plan for the combined campus.
Suggest that a program be developed to memorialize Old Main.
Suggest consideration of activities that offer benefits to the Lake Forest community.
Detail the additional steps needed in conjunction with the demolition of Old Main. This includes working with the City to ensure the cell phone antennae, currently on Old Main, are replaced to maintain cell phone service for the southeast portion of Lake Forest.
Provide the City with a level of comfort that the donors will indeed transfer the Barat property to Woodlands.
What comes next for the transfer of the Barat property to Woodlands?
The donors currently own the Barat property and intend to transfer the property to Woodlands in accordance with their plans. Their intent is for Woodlands to receive the property after the demolition of Old Main and a general cleaning up of the property. Woodlands will receive a “clean canvas” with only the Cooney Library remaining on the property.
Several things will occur before the property is actually transferred to Woodlands.
A solution will be reached for the replacement of the cell phone antennae currently on Old Main.
Old Main will be demolished and the entire site will be free of demolition rubble from Old Main and existing rubble from the prior demolition of other Barat buildings.
Some existing roadways and parking lots will be removed, the property will be regraded and grass will be planted.
The entrance to Woodlands will be moved away from the curve as part of a new traffic circulation plan.
Work will commence on the mechanical components of the Cooney Library to make the building usable.
The donors intend, and the ordinance requires, that the property be transferred to Woodlands no later than twelve months following the completion of the demolition process of Old Main. The exact timing cannot be determined with certainty, but the ordinance requires that demolition of Old Main begin within two years following approval of the ordinance.
What are Woodlands’ plans for the property?
The Woodlands Board is committed to a thoughtful and measured process to consider how the property will be used. The goal is to ensure that any decisions enhance the mission and use the resources of Woodlands effectively and efficiently.
In early fall, Woodlands sought ideas for using the property from the entire Woodlands community including students, alumnae, parents, faculty, staff, Woodlands friends, and the entire local area. Over 300 comments and ideas were received.
Some of the ideas and comments received on how Woodlands intends to proceed were:
Have a combined campus with a consistent and aesthetically pleasing look.
All plans will include the one campus feel with sensitivity to the existing buildings.
Enhance the athletic facilities.
Work on new athletic fields will begin as part of the overall Old Main demolition.
The Special Use Permit ordinance includes a conservation easement and sensitivity to the street scape.
Woodlands is committed to protecting the environment as evidenced by a LEED designation of the recently completed Science Center addition.
Have quiet and meditative places.
It is anticipated that plans for the Sacred Heart Cemetery and the memorialization of portions of the Old Main building will include places for reflection.
Use the Cooney Library in a thoughtful way.
Work will commence soon to make the interior of the Library usable.
Consider partnering with local community groups with common purposes.
One idea high on the consideration list is the return of Shakespeare on the Green.
Thought is being given to how a Performing Arts center could be used by several community groups.
The requirement of a conservation easement will involve a community group dedicated to the common purpose of preserving the environment.
Enhancing the educational experience of Woodlands students.
A review of the Boarding School facility is planned.
Consideration is always being given to expanding the school to include others besides high school girls.
Everyone associated with Woodlands Academy recognizes the generosity and significance of the gift of the Barat property to the school. We thank those that have helped us reach this point. We are confident that the work and prayers associated with this ongoing process will result in a Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart that will provide outstanding educational experiences for many generations of students.