Utica wants Enchanted Forest building cleaned up

Village initiates legal proceedings

A view of the abandoned Enchanted Forest indoor amusement park building on Monday, June 17, 2024, at Grand Bear Resort at Starved Rock in Utica.

The Enchanted Forest, the long-abandoned indoor amusement park at Grand Bear Resort at Starved Rock, needs to be cleaned up, Utica officials said.

On Monday, the village published a “notice to remedy or demolish.” Despite that phraseology, Mayor David Stewart said village officials have no plans to demolish it. They simply want it remediated.

“I don’t think the building is in a state to be demolished,” Stewart said, noting that demolition would be prohibitively expensive. “Whoever acquires it could rehab it.”

The published notice is the first in a series of legal steps before the village can force any action. Anyone holding the title or who has a vested interest in the property has 15 days to come forward.

Stewart said the village’s primary concern is safety. The building has been vacant, he estimated, for at least 10 years and needs to be remediated for the greater good.

The current resort owners are all for village intervention. The Sonnenschein Groupe acquired the former Grand Bear Lodge, which it renamed and rebranded, but did not acquire the Enchanted Forest.

“We hope it benefits the village,” said Matthew Kosch, executive vice president of the Sonnenschein Groupe, “and if Grand Bear can benefit, then it’s a win for everyone.”

The Enchanted Forest was opened in 2006, the second in a multiphase development by Grand Bear’s original builders.

The 36,000-square-foot indoor amusement park once hosted carnival rides, kids games and a small restaurant, but it closed in September 2016 when the original developers ran out of money.

The Enchanted Forest has largely been in legal limbo. In 2017, La Salle County’s Board of Review granted a 53% reduction on the building value but not the land value.

A view of the abandoned Enchated Forest building on Monday, June 17, 2024 at Grand Bear Resort at Starved Rock in Utica.
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