As a pair of longtime car dealerships on Roosevelt Road prepares to cut their operations in half, village officials are pondering what may become of a commercial parcel at 7901 Roosevelt, currently the home of Currie Motors Chevrolet.
“I think it’s unrealistic to think that you’re going to see another car dealership there,” Mayor Anthony Calderone said.
The village council recently voted to extend a tax break to Currie Group, which operates two dealerships on the commercial strip, with the hope that the company can remain viable, even if in a lesser fashion. Currie has been selling cars in Forest Park since 1981, first focusing on Chryslers at 8401 W. Roosevelt Rd., and, in recent years taking over the Chevy dealership at the corner of Desplaines and Roosevelt from previous owners Jerry Gleason and AutoNation.
But a bankruptcy filing this year by one of Currie’s suppliers, Chrysler, is forcing the company to consolidate to one location. The company owns the land at 8401 Roosevelt and intends to renovate the showroom there. The 15-year tax agreement with the village will return up to $1.25 million in sales tax revenue to the company to help offset those costs.
In the meantime, Currie Group’s lease for the Chevy site expires in September and there appears to be little hope of quickly finding a replacement tenant.
The property is owned by Mary Gleason, whose ex-husband Jerry Gleason once operated his own car dealership at the site. An attorney for Gleason, Michele Kurlander, said she was unaware of any prospective tenants, but indicated Currie Group may not be forced to move right away.
“There may be a short extension [on the lease],” Kurlander said. “After that, I don’t know what will happen.”
The mayor said he has had limited discussions with Gleason’s agents.
Calderone, too, said there has been no serious effort on Gleason’s part to recruit new tenants to the site. However, he said he has assurances that, “at least on an interim basis,” the property will be maintained so as not to fall into disrepair.
Extremely preliminary talks suggest there may be an interest in the site, said Calderone, but the potential developer was initially looking for more land than is available at the Gleason property. Those conversations have been with a third party on behalf of an unknown prospect.
“I don’t even know who the user is,” Calderone said. “I don’t even know if it’s a user we would embrace.”
Should the village see its stock of auto dealers dwindle, the impact on municipal coffers could be significant. The argument behind offering a tax rebate to help Currie Group remain in town is that such operations can be extremely lucrative.
Between Currie Group’s two dealerships, the village took in almost $400,000 in sales tax in 2008, according to the finance department.
Several commissioners said they’ve not heard any rumblings with regards to the future of 7901 Roosevelt. Commissioner Mark Hosty said it’s critical that the site’s potential be maximized, and that the council be willing to assist in any number of ways. Hosty’s interest in helping land a new business was echoed by others.
“Any new business would be a revenue generator and I’d like to be involved in those discussions,” Commissioner Rory Hoskins said.