Some 10 months after voting to purchase a blighted residential property on the promise of renovating the structure into a useful community resource, public officials are no closer to deciding what the site will be used for or when residents can expect to see improvements.
According to members of the village council, discussion on how best to rehab the now vacant building at 1000 Beloit Ave. has been nonexistent. Further, Village Administrator Mike Sturino confirmed that in the recently adopted budget there is no funding set aside to care for the property.
“It certainly is on the back burner,” Commissioner Martin Tellalian said.
A divided council voted 3-2 in December to purchase the two-story, multi-use building for $330,000. Mayor Anthony Calderone in particular championed the expense as a way to bring additional policing resources to the neighborhood by constructing a department substation. When the sale price was agreed to in March, language in the ordinance stated explicitly that the site would one day be used by law enforcement, though the village attorney acknowledged that any public use would be appropriate.
Following the election in April, Calderone and Commissioner Mark Hosty are the only remaining council members who voted on the proposal. Both voted to acquire the property.
Hosty acknowledged the lack of further discussion on the property, but said he is willing to consider uses other than those mentioned at the time of the vote. Specifically, he listed a parking lot and green space as possible uses.
Calderone still favors using the property for a police substation, but said he would consider other uses. For now, the mayor is content to let the property sit and said the council will likely come back to it in the next two years.
“We certainly can afford to sit on it for a short period of time, maybe up to a year,” Calderone said.
As for the split vote and the controversy surrounding the purchase, Hosty said much of that was simply political theater for the sake of the upcoming election.
“I think it’s still a good purchase,” Hosty said.
Several commissioners pointed to the ongoing negotiations with the West Cook YMCA for a new recreation facility and the recent salary agreements reached with village employees as taking priority over the Beloit Avenue site. Also, Harvard Avenue, which intersects with Beloit near the 1000 block, is slated for infrastructure improvements in the coming years, according to Sturino. It’s possible that any work at the address could be rolled into that larger project.
Commissioner Mike Curry said he will support whatever proposal is in the community’s best interest, but at this point he has no idea what that proposal might be.
“I haven’t formulated my opinion on what the best use of that building is yet,” Curry said.
Hoskins, meanwhile, echoed Hosty’s sentiment that a pocket park might be ideal, especially given that several schools are nearby. As for the proposal to provide police officers with a secondary facility, Hoskins doubted the village has the money.
“It needs a little bit of work,” Hoskins said. “Bringing it up to safety standards might be cost prohibitive.”
At the time the purchase was made, Calderone responded to critics by pointing to previous acquisitions made during his tenure, most notably the former pet shelter on Madison Street that would ultimately be rehabbed as the Madison Commons.