With the Masonic building at 7509 W. Madison St. set to take on its latest incarnation as the site of 12 high-end condominiums at the end of the month, Wally Aiyash, the developer behind the project, has big plans for the building’s ground floor.
Among the potential tenants Aiyash said he has been in contact with regarding the two commercial storefronts are FedEx Kinko’s and Potbelly’s Sandwich Works. “We’re still waiting to hear from a letter of intent but it looks great,” said Aiyash, president of WJ Management.
Aiyash said he has also discussed the prospect of bringing a doctor’s office and several other retail operations into the ground floor, but said he has his sights set on bringing FedEx Kinkos to Madison Street.
Still, some commercial real estate industry insiders are calling Aiyash’s plans farfetched at best.
The average FedEx Kinko’s store measures 7,500 square feet, while the larger of the Masonic buildings two commercial spots is only 1,840 square feet, said one developer.
Past efforts to bring the shipping and printing giant to Forest Park have reportedly ended when company officials told developers that Madison Street is too close to their Elmwood Park location at 1720 N. Harlem Ave.
Forest Park Village Administrator Michael Sturino said he has not spoken about the possibility with Aiyash, but would most likely support it if Aiyash could pull it off.
“The new zoning code talks about having that very type of business, so it’s something that, on the committee level, has been discussed,” he said.
He said that though past efforts to bring FedEx Kinkos to town might have failed, the village has changed in recent years, citing Starbuck’s recent agreement to move into Forest Park as an example.
Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone agreed: “Certainly I think a Kinko’s or any type of business that would mirror Kinko’s would be an asset to Madison Street. I think a number of entrepreneurs on Madison Street could use the type of services a Kinko’s has to offer,” he said.
Like Sturino, Calderone said that he had not discussed the idea with Aiyash, but said it is not necessarily unusual that he would not have heard of the plans until they were in their final stages.
A ribbon cutting ceremony marking the opening of the four story building’s 12 new luxury condos, four of which have already been sold, is scheduled for August 31.
The 1,300 square foot two bedroom, two bathroom condos are selling for $349,000, and will include new hardwood floors, carpeted bedrooms, granite kitchens, Jacuzzi bathtubs, two-car parking and updated electrical and plumbing systems.
Aiyash purchased the building for $3.5 million after a two-year vacancy that resulted when its previous owner, Hasan Merchant, CEO of Polo Builders Company, declared bankruptcy in June, 2004, owing more than $12.5 million to creditors.
Merchant handed the building over to DJM, a New York based asset management company that he hoped would make enough profit off the building to help pay his debts.
When this plan failed as well, ownership of the building was transferred to Broadway Bank, one of the major creditors to whom Merchant had been indebted.
Aiyash then purchased the property from Broadway Bank and began the process of converting it into luxury condos.
In the past, WJ Management has been best known for its work in Austin, where it has managed about 700 units, according to Aiyash. It has received the Good Neighbors award five years in a row for its devotion to rehabilitating formerly drug and gang infested housing developments in Austin and the West Side of Chicago.
The company also owns a 30-acre shopping center in Portage, Indiana as well as 55 townhomes in Aurora.