Patrick Wangler says it isn’t going to happen, but Mayor Anthony Calderone confirmed last week that talks were in the works for a potential village and/or Park District partnership to purchase the Roos property, following a developer’s decision to take a pass on the controversial project.
The project has been plagued with problems, including an injunction filed last week by Sprint PCS to stop the building’s demolition.
Sprint operates a cell tower cluster on the building, covering Roosevelt Road, and has a 20-year contract with Wangler, who owns the Roos property, to keep the towers up.
Last month, Wangler requested a variation from the village to move the towers to a vacated parcel of land on Hannah Avenue. The move would require the tower to be erected up to 100 feet, 25 feet over the maximum height allowed within the village, to solve line of sight problems for Sprint PCS.
Despite a successful resolution for Wangler at the Zoning Board of Appeals, the company moved forward with the injunction for the demolition on May 5, 2005.
“This is a temporary restraining order between Sprint and Armitage Capitol Corp.,” said Calderone, who received a courtesy copy of the injunction. “Apparently Sprint is claiming that the building demolition will harm them if those towers [do] not remain there. It could be that Sprint wanted to get in front of this and head something off before it became a problem. I am only guessing that Sprint did this to protect their interest.”
Sources close to village hall revealed that, upon receipt of the injunction, staff
attempted to pull the demolition permits, discovering they had never been issued.
Local developer Bud Moon was considering a partnership with Wangler to develop the Roos property. However, Wangler said that developer Bud Moon has walked away from the project. Wangler denied that the property was for sale, saying he never discussed the possibility with the mayor.
But, a letter obtained by the REVIEW, from confidential sources, indicates the opposite.
In an April 26 letter from Calderone, addressed to Park District Director Dave Novak and copied to the commissioners, Calderone asked the Park District to consider purchasing the property at 7329 W. Harrison St.
“Yesterday,” Calderone wrote, “I met with the current owner of the property to get an update with respect to the demolition and construction schedule. During that conversation I pointedly asked them what price they would be willing to sell the property for, and would they be interested in doing so to the Park District of Forest Park? They responded to me that the purchase price is $3,750,000.”
When questioned, Wangler emphatically denied there were any problems with the project or that the property was for sale.
“We are going to be tearing down the building, starting within the first two weeks of May and will begin construction prior to Sept. 27,” he said, “I have not been approached by the park district to purchase the land [and] I probably should be the first one to hear it.”
Wangler also denied that Moon’s withdrawal from the development would affect construction.
“[That] doesn’t have anything to do with the starting of the project,” he said. “The project is not impacted by the presence or absence of any other interested party to the development. It is just not an issue. If we have 16 partners or do it on our own, nothing changes.”
When questioned about the letter, Calderone said he was simply suggesting the Park District take a serious look at acquiring the property.
“I didn’t pass along nearly any other details, only because there are no real details for me to pass along,” he said. “I am hoping to have spearheaded a worthy discussion about whether the park could acquire this property. In my letter to the park I wanted to keep the door open so that, in the event they felt maybe this was not something they could take on individually, that we would like to talk to them [about if] it was necessary for us to partner with them.”
“[Wangler] soon realized he was in over his head and now he is looking for someone to take this thing out of his hands,” said Village Council Commissioner Patrick Doolin of the potential sale. “I was never in support of this project I didn’t think he had the ability to pull this off.”
“The timing [of all of this] is so suspect,” said Park Commissioner Cathleen McDermott. “[Wangler] is trying to dump the building, Moon walks away and now [Wangler] gets the mayor involved. You have to file a motion [for an injunction]. Did they know about this before they sent the letter to the park?”
When questioned regarding the $3.75 million price tag for the old building, Calderone said the value of the property is “subjective.”
“That is kind of subjective in terms of what would be the best piece of land,” he said. “But if we were to look at the best use for the property, I think best use would be park.”
Doolin, a licensed real estate agent, said it seemed like “a lot of money.”
In addition to the demolition injunction and the possible sale, during last week’s Plan Commission meeting, it was revealed that there were potential issues securing EPA permits for the building, sources said
“I don’t know if there are EPA issues there or not,” Doolin said. “It is an enigma wrapped around a mystery surrounded by a riddle. This is the reason the project should have never been approved in the first place.”
Regardless, all involved believe that exploring a potential village and/or Park District purchase of the Roos property is at least worth discussing.
“I think it is something we definitely need to consider or look into further, if the offer is out there,” McDermott said.
However, the sale is not a done deal, cautioned Calderone.
“There is always that risk that the property owner would say no, but I got the feeling that given the right price they would sell,” Calderone said.