After racking up more than $16,500 in fines during the last two months from village building code violations, maintenance work has finally begun to clean up and secure the Roos building at Circle Avenue and Harrison Street.

The abandoned property’s deteriorating condition has been a priority concern for the village not only because it’s a 2.45 acre eyesore, but also because there are serious safety issues regarding the structure’s stability.  

“It’s a little like a house of cards,” said Steve Glinke, fire chief and head of the department of public health and safety. “This thing is going to tumble, and we’re just hopeful that it’s not going to tumble with someone in it.”

Until last week, Glinke’s morning tradition included pouring a cup of coffee and writing 11 different citations regarding the property’s unsafe conditions, sanitation problems and overall appearance.  With work now underway, Glinke is unsure if the village fines will be paid but he is pleased to see action.

How bad is the building? For one thing it is not secure, Glinke said. The fencing is feeble and the window boarding that was installed at the beginning of July has since failed. The site has become a targeted spot for teenage mischief, and a few weeks ago the space was a haven for homeless people. Glinke and his crew have found empty alcohol bottles, as well as graffiti both on the interior and exterior of the building, which shows that people have, in fact, been able to access the site, he said.

“There are holes in the floors everywhere in this building,” he said. “Anyone walking in there at night is running a huge risk.”

With an open wall exposed to the elements, the “downright spongy” floors and the roof have begun to buckle. Support timbers that are 10-inches thick have started to bow, weakening the structure’s skeleton. The patchwork that covers part of the brick wall has started peeling off, as water has seeped in between the layers.

“This site is clearly unacceptable,” Glinke said. “It’s a blighted property.”

Labeling it a quality of life issue, Glinke has said he wants to see the site cleared and all entry points blocked off. He has also requested that a structural engineer inspect the property and provide documentation that the building is stable. 

After a court order last week, it appears that change may finally be on its way.

Though Harris Bank currently owns the property, which has been caught in a tangled foreclosure process among different banks, the court appointed another company, Rally Capital, in March as the receiver.

Acting as a buffer between various parties, Rally Capital “offers financial, administrative and operational management advisory services to under-performing and distressed companies,” according to its website. That also means that Rally Capital is responsible for maintenance issues.

The problem, though, has been that Rally Capital could not secure the funds from the bank to “satisfy these expenses,” court documents show.

“The marching order was spend no money or spend as little as possible,” Glinke said was his impression of the situation.

Last week, however, Rally Capital went to court to get Harris to release the money needed for repairs. The court documents from last week were not available as of Monday, but it appears that the receiver’s request was granted as workers showed up at the property on Friday.

Glinke said it seems like they have moved a step in the right direction, though he is still going to monitor the progress. He is also still waiting for a report from a structural engineer.

An official with Harris Bank said they could not comment, and the individual named in court documents as the representative of the receiver could not be immediately reached.

Park District still eyes Roos building, negotiations continue

Many residents have questioned the progress of the Park District's attempt to purchase the Roos building property after months have passed without securing a deal.

Their concern is likely tied to a property tax hike voters passed in February that allows the park district to collect an additional 12 cents per $100 of assessed valuation on property in Forest Park – the first bill being due just days before Christmas. This extra money is supposed to help cover the cost of the acquisition.

The park district has said that "it is still very much the intention" of the district to buy the 2.45 acre site and transform it to include green space, a community garden and a gym. Both sides, however, remain tight-lipped about the process.

Under the park district plan, the southern portion of the building facing Harrison Street would be retained. The back, and less secure, portion of the structure faces demolition.

According to court records, some sort of agreement had been drawn up last April between property owner Harris Bank and the park district, which offered to purchase the property for $1.9 million. The receiver, Rally Capital, wrote that it was fair and recommended approval of the deal, court documents show.

But for whatever reasons, negotiations continue.

In a statement the park district sent to the Review, park leaders indicated that the hold-up has been a result of Harris Bank acquiring the mortgage note previously held by Amcore Bank.

"Delays have been encountered as the result of this asset, like the many other assets acquired by Harris, being assigned to and handled by third party servicing companies," the statement read. "We have been in constant communication with Harris and its attorneys to attempt to expedite this process and will continue to do so."

An official with Harris Bank said they could not comment on negotiations.