The Masonic building located at 7509 W. Madison St. has often been at the center of controversy in Forest Park. Now a new developer has purchased it and plans to put in 12 condo units for sale and two commercial stores.
The building was purchased by Wally Aiyash, president of WJ Management Inc., after a almost two-year vacancy stint, tarnished by the building’s convoluted history of ownership.
The former owner of the building, Hasan Merchant, CEO of Polo Builders Company, initially bought the building from the Muslim Group Dawoodi Bohra Jamaat of Chicago, with plans to remodel it. According to his plans, the building was supposed to have 12 remodeled condo units by late 2002.
However, Polo Builders ran short on cash and stopped the construction before the units were complete, owing more than $12.5 million to more than 100 creditors.
Merchant and his company declared bankruptcy in June, 2004.
In September 2004, DJM, an asset management company based in New York, took charge of marketing the Masonic building and several other assets belonging to Merchant and his company.
The plan was to secure a bid high enough to pay off some of the debts.
However, DJM asset management failed to secure a sufficient bid, ultimately handing over the building to one of the major credit lenders, Broadway Bank.
After staying empty, Aiyash finally bought the giant from the bank for approximately $3.5 million.
Aiyash’s company, WJ Management, is a real-estate and property management company that started in Aurora, IL, ten years ago. The company came to Austin seven years ago and has managed development of more than 500 units.
WJ Management also works with various business partners such as Community Investment Corporation and Cole Taylor Bank.
The company was awarded the Good Neighbors Award five years in a row in Austin and Chicago. The award is given as a sign of appreciation for significantly improving the quality of a property.
“We take drug- and gang-infested properties in Austin and Chicago and clean them up to a level of presentable housing,” Aiyash said.
WJ Management also owns various apartments and shopping centers in Naperville and Chicago.
Though the building suffered from its two years of vacancy and weather damage, Aiyash said the building is almost completed and the condos will be available for sale in June.
The condos are approximately 1,400 sq ft in size and will be available for $350,000 to $450,000.
The condos will have two bathrooms, carpeted bedrooms, hardwood floors, granite kitchens, a laundry room and some will even have back porches.
As for the commercial stores that will open in the building, Aiyash said he is looking for “quiet” businesses such as a bank or a retail store in consideration of the condo residents.
Mayor Calderone of Forest Park said he did not receive any feedback from the residents about the building but there are no serious issues that should concern the residents.
The building is currently being updated in its exterior and interior design.
“It’s going to be a very beautiful and solid building,” Aiyash said.