First posted 11/14/2008 3:17 p.m.
One of the most prolific residential developers in Forest Park in recent years, Cherryfield Properties, may be on the verge of ending its run. New liens are being slapped against unsold projects and the face of the company, Barney O’Reilly, is no longer working with his partner.
In a brief phone interview, Cherryfield co-founder Morgan Hughes confirmed that O’Reilly’s relationship with the development group has ended. He declined to elaborate on why those ties were severed or where O’Reilly might be working. Meanwhile, the company is negotiating with creditors, said Hughes, and trying to sell its remaining properties at a time when real estate markets across the country have crashed and toxic loans have sent the economy staggering.
“Basically, all the information at this point is that Barney’s no longer with the company,” Hughes said.
If and when Cherryfield’s assets can be sold, said Hughes, he’ll make a decision on the future of the company.
“At this point that’s uncertain. In the current climate there’s not much activity going on,” Hughes said.
Rumors have swirled around O’Reilly and the company’s future in recent months. Village Commissioner Mike Curry said he began leaving messages with O’Reilly in August and has not heard back. Village Administrator Mike Sturino, too, said he has had no contact with O’Reilly and eventually turned to the Oak Park real estate office representing Cherryfield’s properties for assurance that marketing and maintenance would not lapse. Both Curry and Sturino estimated that Cherryfield has a half-dozen properties on the market in Forest Park.
“We don’t know for sure, but we’ve been unable to reach him,” Sturino said of O’Reilly’s whereabouts.
A Web site for Cherryfield Properties has been dismantled and the phone number for the company’s office on Madison has been changed. Calls to O’Reilly’s cell phone were not returned, though the Review was unable to leave a message because the voice mail was full.
Curry, too, said that after several attempts to reach O’Reilly he was unable to leave messages on the former developer’s voice mail. Both as a commissioner and as the former chairman of the zoning board, Curry helped oversee Cherryfield’s projects for several years in Forest Park. He said he was attempting to contact O’Reilly for feedback on building codes, zoning hearings and other process-type issues.
“It’s sad if we have a developer that has worked with its citizens and the village to the extent that Barney has, to just pick up and leave,” Curry said. “I think it’s blatantly disrespectful and unprofessional.”
Sturino agreed that he would have preferred some sort of notice from O’Reilly or Cherryfield that the company might be pulling out of the real estate game. Given the soft market, the village is reaching out to local developers to ensure that properties do not fall into disrepair, said Sturino.
The village administrator praised the quality of Cherryfield’s work in Forest Park, and credited O’Reilly with having an agreeable manner.
“Barney was … sensitive to the aspirations of the village, at the same time to the concerns of residents,” Sturino said. “He was, I thought, a very patient person.”
The real estate office F.C. Pilgrim and Company in Oak Park handles marketing for Cherryfield. Co-owner Michael O’Neill declined to elaborate on Cherryfield’s standing in the community, but said his firm’s work will continue.
“We are continuing to market the properties until we hear otherwise,” O’Neill, said.
Two of Cherryfield’s single-family homes, on the corner of Lathrop and Randolph, recently had almost $93,000 in liens filed against them. Subcontractors who provided excavating, tile work, duct work and other carpentry each filed paperwork with the Cook County Recorder of Deeds in October seeking to recoup those funds.
In October and November, a lumber company and wood flooring outfit both filed suit against Cherryfield in an effort to collect a total of more than $67,400.
Earlier this year, Omni National Bank filed to foreclose on two vacant lots owned by Cherryfield, 504 and 508 Elgin. That case is still pending in circuit court.