In recent weeks, Mayor Anthony Calderone has been exploring yet another idea for the long troubled Roos building. Calderone has been promoting the idea of turning the empty factory that is currently slated for demolition and then construction of condos into a multi-use governmental center. Under that scenario, it could potentially house village hall, park district facilities and headquarters, and School District 91 offices.
“It would be intriguing to have park, village and schools in a multi-government building,” said Calderone last week. “There are some very intriguing opportunities here.”
But everything depends upon an appraisal of the property at Circle and Harrison. The appraisal is expected to be complete in about a week. The village and the park district are splitting the $2,000 cost of the appraisal, said Dave Novak, park district executive director.
The Roos property is currently owned by Armitage Capital Corporation. In September 2004 the Village Council voted 3-2, with Calderone casting the deciding vote, to approve a planned unit development (PUD) that changed the zoning on the property located at 7329 W. Harrison, to allow Armitage and lead developer Patrick Wangler to go ahead with plans to demolish the building and construct 132 condominiums in four four-story buildings.
Wangler confirmed he has met with the mayor and said he expects to hear from the village after the appraisal is delivered to the village. The current asking price for the property is $3.75 million.
“We’re waiting to hear back from them,” said Wangler. “The primary purchaser would be the village, in conjunction with the park district, or alone. We are moving forward as if it’s not going to happen.”
But the PUD is scheduled to expire in just 2 1/2 months on September 27, 2005 and the condominium project seems stalled. The main building still sits empty with numerous broken windows. Only some small one story portions of the structure have been demolished as demolition of the main building has been delayed because on a temporary restraining order that was obtained by Sprint PCS which has cell towers atop the building. There have been persistent reports that Armitage is trying to sell the property and the PUD including taking out an ad in Crain’s Chicago Business in May. There are no signs on the property advertising condominiums for sale.
Commissioner Patrick Doolin, who voted against the PUD last year, said that he is also intrigued by the idea of a joint governmental center but cautioned that such a project would be hard to pull off.
“I think it is something worth exploring,” said Doolin. “It’s going to take monumental effort by a variety of governmental bodies. It’s an interesting idea, but it needs to be explored in much detail and in much more depth.”
The park district has been less than wildly enthusiastic since Calderone proposed in May that the park board consider making a bid on the property alone or in conjunction with the village. Novak said it would be premature to comment before seeing the appraisal.
“Everything depends upon the appraisal,” Novak said last week.
District 91 Supt. Randolph Tinder confirmed that he has had one informal discussion with Mayor Calderone and another with Village Administrator Michael Sturino about the idea. “We are certainly open to more discussion,” said Tinder while cautioning that the proposal is just an idea at this point.
Doolin said participation by District 91 would be vital. “The school district would have to be a partner in this,” said Doolin. “The village and park district couldn’t bring this off.”
Such a project would require an unprecedented level of cooperation among the three taxing bodies.
Calderone said the village hall, built in 1975, is getting cramped and that the police department especially could use some more space. He also noted that the village needs a new fire station.
Both Calderone and Doolin said they were attracted to the convenience of having all the units of local government headquartered in the same space. Calderone noted that relocating the village hall, currently located at 517 Desplaines Ave., and District 91 headquarters, located at 424 Desplaines Ave., would free up space for more development along Desplaines Avenue near thriving Madison Street. Those properties should be in high demand based on their proximity to Madison Street.
Calderone said he expects it to take a month or two after receiving the appraisal to determine whether the joint governmental center idea has any realistic chance of going forward. That would approach the Sept. 27, 2005 expiration date of the PUD. If construction has not begun by Sept. 27, 2005 the PUD will expire unless extended by vote of the village council.
While Wangler maintains that he expects to begin construction by Sept. 27, there are grave doubts about his ability to do so.
Doolin is firmly opposed to extending the PUD and was very critical of Wangler.
“I challenge the mayor and the other two commissioners who voted for this to admit to this mistake and commit to letting the PUD expire,” said Doolin. “I don’t think the developer ever had the ability to pull this off. It’s a guy who should have never been allowed to get to this point. The writing was on the wall when it took this guy 42 months to get through the planning process. It didn’t take Taxman that long in Abell Howe and Madison Commons. I voted against Abell Howe, but Taxman is a legitimate developer. Let’s get to the expiration of the PUD. That gives us some options and some time.”
Calderone has a different view on whether the PUD should be extended if no deal can be reached with Wangler. “I would be in favor of extending the PUD equal to the amount of time that we have delayed them,” said Calderone.
Would the overall village council extend the PUD?
“I think it would be problematic,” said Calderone.