Credit: Igor Studenkov/Staff Reporter

An investor purchased the long-vacant Moran’s Garage auto repair shop property at 7505 Randolph Ave. — but he is in no hurry to decide what he’s going to do with it. 

Jose Joseph, of north suburban Northbrook, acquired the land the same way he bought lots of properties — through a scavenger tax sale — in order to either lease it out or sell it to a developer and make profit. Moran’s Garage ended up in a scavenger sale after the owner Denis Moran didn’t pay property taxes between 2011 and 2018. Once the property gets sold on the scavenger sale, the owner has three years to pay off the debt — otherwise, the property goes to whoever submitted the highest bid. 

According to the Cook County records, the Office of Cook County Treasurer officially transferred the deed to Joseph on July 20.  He said that he hasn’t made up his mind whether he would fix up the property and lease it to another auto repair shop or sell the land to the developer. But any redevelopment would most likely have to deal with remediation — Moran’s Garage was a gas station until 1981, and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency usually requires the developer to check if there’s contamination from the underground gasoline storage tanks and to remediate any contamination that may turn up. 

Moran’s Garage opened a Standard Oil gas station in 1966 before becoming an auto mechanic shop in 1981. Moran himself had been active in the community, he spent decades with the Forest Park Kiwanas, earning the Ed O’Shea Service award in 2011 for his work with area youth.  He died in 2020.

In recent years, Bruce Lawn Service, a Forest Park lawn-mowing, landscaping and snow removal company, listed the garage as its business address and stored lawnmowers and other equipment in front of the building. While the company had since moved away, Joseph said that at least some equipment was there when he got the deed.  

The scavenger tax sale program is set up to try to get properties that owe several years’ worth of property taxes back on the tax rolls. The taxes are auctioned off, and the highest bidder takes over the responsibility for paying taxes. If the property owner doesn’t pay off the debt, the title gets transferred to the tax buyer.

According to county records, Moran owed $17,795 in taxes, and the property was actioned off in the scavenger sale.  Moran’s family did not respond by deadline.

Joseph said that he didn’t set out to buy the auto shop specifically — it just happened to be one of the properties that turned up on the tax sale. But now that he has it, he believes it has potential that would allow him to make profit one way or another. 

“I buy property in a tax sale, mostly commercial,” Joseph said. “It seems like a good corner store in that area.”

His first priority, he said, was to clean up the property. Joseph said that he reached out to the company asking them to remove it themselves, to no avail.

“The property was really ugly, with all the stuff there,” he said.

Beyond that, he said that he was waiting for a 30-day period when Moran’s family can file an appeal before deciding what he would do with the property. And even after the 30-day period, Joseph said it may be a few weeks before he makes the decision. 

“I was trying to actually fix it up,” he said. “Maybe fix it and rent it out or something. Put up an auto shop. Or maybe find a buyer right away, a developer.”