Hinsdale-based real estate company KrohVan has purchased the H.J. Mohr & Sons Co. concrete site with the intention of developing the land as multifamily residential complex of perhaps five stories. A hotel is also being considered for a portion of the site. A national daycare chain is already approved for construction on an additional parcel on Garfield Street.
The Mohr property includes two parcels of land, the larger of which is the 3.29-acre plot at the corner of Harlem Avenue and Garfield Street where the former concrete plant sits. KrohVan purchased that site, as well as a smaller parcel on Garfield Street, which was previously used by Mohr to store concrete trucks.
H.J. Mohr & Sons Co. was one of the state’s oldest businesses, even predating Oak Park’s incorporation in 1902 by nine years. The company’s founder, Henry J. Mohr, served as the first mayor of Forest Park. Originally a coal and building materials supplier, Mohr & Sons transitioned into an industrial concrete manufacturing company. It remained a concrete manufacturer until 2018, when financial woes prompted the business’s closure.
KrohVan closed on the sale June 2, but Illinois property transfer records do not yet show how much was paid for the land. Mike Kaspar, KrohVan’s head of development, declined to share the purchase price, stating only that it was in the “millions.”
The property had a listing price of $6.67 million when it returned to the real estate market in the summer of 2020. The property was last under contract in February 2020 to an unnamed developer that backed out due to uncertain economic conditions prompted by COVID-19.
Many corporate real estate sales are contingent upon the intended buyer receiving government approval for development projects. Confident in their vision for the property, KrohVan opted against taking the conventional route and purchased the land without first going through the village of Oak Park’s planned development process.
Initial conversations between Village of Oak Park staff and the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation have gone positively for KrohVan, according to Kaspar.
“Our concept for the site has been pretty warmly received so far in dealing with the OPEDC,” said Kaspar. “Conversations we’ve had preliminarily with the village in virtual format were promising.”
Regardless, KrohVan will still have to go through the village’s planned development process, which includes bringing designs before the Oak Park Plan Commission and the village board. KrohVan intends to build a multifamily apartment complex, roughly five stories tall, on the southern two-thirds of the Harlem Avenue and Garfield Street plot. Kaspar said the apartments would be let at market rate.
For the remaining one-third, KrohVan is proposing a hotel. The hotel would fall under one of the flags the Marriott hotel group, but which has not yet been determined.
“It’ll probably be a select service hotel,” said Kaspar.
A portion of KrohVan’s broader plans has already scored the approval of the Oak Park Zoning Board of Appeals. The developer is planning to open a daycare center at the former truck storage site. Part of the nationwide Kiddie Academy chain, the ZBA unanimously approved KrohVan’s request for a special use permit, which are required of daycare centers in Oak Park.
Work to convert the Garfield Street lot into Kiddie Academy has already started. Crews have successfully removed the asbestos from the truck storage site. Crews are currently taking out the building’s utilities in preparation for its impending demolition. Construction of the daycare center will take between six and nine months, according to Kaspar.
The decision to sell the property has been emotionally charged for the Mohr family. “It’s been in the family for all these years. I’m ashamed that under these circumstances that we have to close the doors,” said Dolores Mohr, who goes by Dolly.
The sadness was echoed by her daughter, Karen Richards, who served as a principal in the family company.
“It’s depressing that the place had to go,” Richards told Wednesday Journal.
Mohr’s late husband and Richards’ father, Henry “Bud” Mohr, was responsible for the beloved Christmas decorations that topped the concrete plant year-round. The future of the Santa Claus figure, which became something of an unofficial mascot for the Mohr company, is unknown. Richards hopes to find him a home with the Historical Society of Forest Park.
While understanding how emotional the situation is for the Mohr family, Kaspar said working with the Mohr family was an “awesome experience” due to their kindness, especially that of Mohr herself.
“Dolly is just the sweetest, sweetest person I’ve ever met,” Kaspar said.
The Mohr matriarch is still grieving the sale of the family’s property, but she has faith in KrohVan and Kaspar, whom she called a “very nice gentleman.” Her assurances offer something of a silver lining for the family that, despite the sale, the property is in capable hands.
“I think he’ll do a very good job,” said Mohr.