By Nona Tepper
The city of Chicago recently cited the firm responsible for redeveloping the townhomes along Van Buren Street and temporarily suspended its building and contractor license.
In July 2017, the Forest Park Village Council unanimously approved Forest Park Townhomes LLC's redevelopment of the 1.3 acre property, from 7771 to 7795 Van Buren St., allowing the developer to build 17 new 3-story townhouses just east of the Altenheim retirement home and Concordia Cemetery.
Forest Park Townhomes LLC is controlled by Bart Przyjemski, who is a partner at the Chicago-based Noah Properties development firm. The city of Chicago's Department of Buildings issued a suspension of Noah Properties' building permit on Aug. 17, after a city inspector found that an unlicensed electrician had performed shoddy work on four Noah Properties buildings in Chicago, leaving exposed and live electrical wires looped and hanging between the buildings. The inspector also found the buildings were occupied prior to issuing any certificates of occupancy.
"These conditions pose a serious risk of fire, electrical shock, and electrocution to workers, tenants, occupants, first responders, and the general public," the notice reads. "Consequently, the electrical service to the buildings was terminated, and the occupied buildings were vacated by order of the Department of Buildings."
In a meeting with the city, the unlicensed electrician said he installed electricity to the buildings under direction from Przyjemski.
The Department of Buildings and Przyjemski were later able to reach a settlement agreement.
"Noah Properties and [the Department of Buildings] reached a settlement agreement whereby the company will pay a fine to the city, bring all their current projects into compliance and commit to maintain full compliance with city code going forward," Gregg Cunningham, public information officer at the Department of Buildings, said in a statement.
Cunningham did not specify the amount of the settlement agreement; city code states that those suspended must pay at least $150 in fines to the city.
This is not the first complaint Przyjemski has received for his development work.
In June 2015, a Chicago couple sued Noah Properties, alleging their building offered "substantially inadequate insulation," allowing snow and frost to accumulate inside their home among other issues. The case is still pending in Circuit Court.
In July 2018, an insurance company reached a declaratory judgement with seven developers, including Przyjemski.
Przyjemski said the action has nothing to do with his project in Forest Park, which is his first project in the village.
"The suspension never took place and it will have no impact on the Forest Park project," Przyjemski wrote in an email. "One has nothing to do with the other," he added.
The village has so far had no problems with the developer and most of the property's approvals and milestone inspections have been done by BNF Technical, the village's third-party reviewer, said Steve Glinke, director of the village's Department of Public Health and Safety.
"I think it's a substantial improvement over what was there," he said. "There were four industrial properties there. They're creating a walkable attraction; I think it's a huge value add for that part of Forest Park."
Glinke said about half of the project has been completed, with drywall done, sidewalks poured and more. He estimated the project would probably be "substantially completed" by the end of the year.
"I think they're on schedule; I haven't had any issues. We're looking forward to a finished project," he said.