Lake and Forest project creeps forward

Development group to return to village board with garage updates Oct. 15


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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

It appears one component of the long-delayed Sertus project at Lake and Forest in downtown Oak Park is coming together.

Rough plans for the new parking garage on the site, slated for completion sometime in 2013 with construction anticipated to begin this year, were presented to the village board on Monday and will be brought back Oct. 15 for final approval.

While the garage plans are getting an update, plans for the 20-story commercial development associated with it haven't been publicly presented since August. But plans are due before the board soon, since the building permit deadline is currently Nov. 1. Sertus principal Michael Glazier, the head developer behind the project, has indicated confidence to the board that plans will move forward as promised.

The land for the project is owned by Sertus, but the village owns the aging garage that currently surrounds the property. The new budget plans submitted Monday detail that the total costs of the garage would be about $9.7 million. The capped costs in the redevelopment agreement are $8.5 million but additional expenses were outlined in the update.

For the time being, Oak Park owns the land and no transfer could occur until the project moves forward with financing, which is another piece of the development that hasn't publicly been announced yet. The village will continue to own the public parking spaces after the land transfer.

The village may look into general obligation bonds that allow it to spread out the costs of the project over 20-30 years. There is also a possibility to finance the project with Sertus, but no specifics have been arranged. Overall, no financing options for the development or the garage have been finalized since the design drawings are not complete.

Glazier said financing for the commercial development doesn't begin to yield results until the drawings are completed. The contractor, Power Construction, has been selected for construction as soon as the project can move forward.

The item was up for discussion Monday but did not need formal approval on any specifics. Interim Village Manager Cara Pavlicek explained it was important for the board to see the components of the design development before it moved to the next steps.

Trustees provided several questions about how each level was designed, the logistics of spaces and the complexity of the structure. Sertus provided an overview of rough drawings, garage metrics, budget plans and scheduling. As part of the redevelopment agreement, the board will need to give formal approval of the project by Nov. 1.

In the meantime, village staff is preparing a plan to notify the Lake and Forest garage permit holders where they can park when construction starts, according to Jill Velan, interim parking manager. Holley Court garage has ample space, she said, and is not far away. Staff will send out notifications once a firm date has been set to tear down the garage.

Trustee Bob Tucker asked about the project staying on schedule since it was pushed back two months when the extension was granted, but Glazier said the process has been compressed to hit the checkpoints.

Overall, the three-story garage will have 300 public spots, will be ADA-equipped and have compact stalls for Smart Cars. The proposed surrounding structure, which would contain residential apartments and retail space, also incorporates a public parking garage that would be jointly operated with the village.

In August the board approved a contract with the International Code Council to perform a plan review, not to exceed $36,000, of the drawings submitted as part of the permit process. The portion to review the garage design is expected to cost $6,200. The majority of the costs will be covered by Sertus.

Email: Twitter: @AnnaLothson

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John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 15th, 2012 1:29 AM

I reread Anna Lothon's article of Nov 5, 2012 and found a clearer statement re 11/1/12 deadline. It states, "As part of the redevelopment agreement, the board will need to give formal approval of the project by Nov. 1." As the "board" could not accept such an a document without a quorum and Yes vote, it appears that the deadline was not met unless I missed something. I don't think the "board" can legally extend the deadline without a quorum and a Yes vote.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 15th, 2012 1:11 AM

Sertus Deadline - I checked the board agenda (up to date) and minutes (no recent ones on the OP Website) and found no reference to Sertus having met the building permit deadline of Nov. 1. If the deadline had been met, I am certain that the village would have had a press release about it. I have no idea what the penalty is for missing the deadline.


Posted: November 14th, 2012 11:23 PM

Good question. My assumption is that Sertus met the deadline, for an extension was not on the Board agendas. I raised the question to the Board, but I have yet to hear anything. It would be nice if the WJ reported on an update.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 14th, 2012 9:02 PM

Sertus? Did they meet the November 1 building permit deadline?


Posted: October 12th, 2012 9:03 AM

Look at it this way-OP has more green space than before

Good point  

Posted: October 11th, 2012 11:49 PM

Yeah in a city of lawyers there is no chance someone won't find a reason to sue the Village over that Ode To Stonehenge On Forest. Hopefully its a BMW or Volvo that get the first falling rock chunks.


Posted: October 11th, 2012 2:00 PM

I dont see the rush on anyone's part. The garage is not "falling" down. Thats it.

Are Lawsuits Heading This Way?  

Posted: October 10th, 2012 11:29 PM

Where is the urgency on the part of the Village Trustees over what to do should Sertus not be able to obtain financing for this project? There has been no Plan B evident from the start. What happens when Sertus comes back asking for more time, for who knows how long, before the Village puts itself in a serious liability situation as it relates to the garage for which it has been crying for years that its too far gone? VOP prepared for lawsuits if someone gets hurt in that falling down garage?


Posted: October 9th, 2012 1:41 PM

There is NO For Sale sign at Lake and Forest. Learn to read and then proceed

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: October 9th, 2012 12:15 PM

Raymond Johnson, you have put together a very messy plan with Sertus, and although Sertus will not be getting money to build his project you are still planning on wasting millions to build a new parking lot. If Sertus was really able to get money, then the best plan would be sell everything to Sertus, place to money into a safe investment, then when the entire project doesn't work, you can approach Sertus and buy back the land for a lot less money making a profit for tax payers.

Lake & Forest  

Posted: October 9th, 2012 12:03 PM

Ray Johnson--please indicate any public owned property anywhere that contributes property or tax revenue? Why not just sell all VOP owned property and lease it back? Put all that is in the hands of the public into private ownership--by your logic it will further your argument. Bigger issues here than just trying to come up with new revenue streams, Ray. And why so confident Sertus will get their financing? They've done nothing to demonstrate that their qualified for such a completed project.


Posted: October 9th, 2012 9:56 AM

Ray, there is nothing in the agreement talking about air rights. Sadly the truth is that the Board will do whatever it takes to get this project built. The Board will keep trying to justify their position with half-truths and misrepresentations. Sertus will be back before the end of this month asking for another extension and the Board will approve it unanimously. However, nothing will get built until Sertus satisfies the Epstein lien on the property.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: October 8th, 2012 6:09 PM

Ray Johnson, who owns the land next to the parking lot? Will you build the garage if you do not get Sertus?

Ray Johnson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 8th, 2012 5:57 PM

Lake/Forest: To the folks who are upset about the potential transfer of land from the Village to Sertus (if and when Sertus puts together financing for this project), the rationale used behind this transfer is pretty straight forward. The current VOP owned parking lot never contributed property or sales tax to the community. The plan is for Sertus to use the air rights above and around the VOP owned parking garage, and in turn the Village reaps the reward for this configuration in the form of sales and retail taxes, plus parking revenues. While ultimately the village will not own the land underneath its parking garage, we will retain ownership of 300 parking spaces, while the developer pays for and owns another 200 spaces. This revenue set-up is far better than the one we have today, based on the fact our current garage provides only parking revenues and no other revenue streams. The final point to stress is that there will be NO transfer of VOP owned land unless and until the Village receives confirmation that a financing package is completely put together for Sertus and the project is ready to move forward. I'm confident that will happen.

Facts from Oak Park  

Posted: October 8th, 2012 3:49 PM

It's a leasing sign. They are looking for interested tenants for the proposed project. And Q less is correct. The Village did not own the parcel.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: October 8th, 2012 2:00 PM

Q less, you don't follow stories very well, but lets just say Sertus bought the property. If Sertus bought the property and the board are waiting for Sertus to build his project then why is there a for sale sign on the property? If Sertus is selling the property then board knows they shouldn't spend tax payers money for a parking lot that is not needed.

Q less  

Posted: October 8th, 2012 9:02 AM

Sertus bought the previous building that housed the Orig Pancake house for close to $10 Mill. End of story. The Village owned the parking lot on which a NEW public garage may be built. Not that hard to see. Stop trying to make this something its not. The Village is not trying to sell anything here.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: October 7th, 2012 11:35 PM

Q less, Sertus did not buy the land from anyone. Raymond Johnson and Pope are giving the land to Sertus so he can build his building. Sertus can't get investors so it isn't going to be built. There is a for sale sign on the property. If Sertus did own the land and Sertus is selling the land then the board would not be waiting for Sertus because Sertus is selling the land. Now you may not understand any of this and that is understandable because there are lots of people like you who don't.

Q less  

Posted: October 7th, 2012 10:55 PM

Raymond Johnson never said it wasnt owned by Sertus. He said the Village never gave Sertus the land, they bought it from the owner of the building. Duh

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: October 7th, 2012 9:32 PM

Anna Lothson, if the land at Forest and Lake street is owned by Sertus, and Raymond Johnson says it isn't then why is there a for sale sign on the property? If you don't find reporting enjoyable then you won't succeed in reporting.

OP Taxpayer  

Posted: October 7th, 2012 9:34 AM

Love it.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 6th, 2012 11:31 PM

The questions hsve to be asked; What in the last ten years has a developments using village funds (TIF's, Bonds etc.) has been completed and gave an ROI to the property owner/investors in the form of enhanced services or reduced taxes? How many developments used (Tif's , Bonds, etc.) with no or minimal return on the property owners investment (Whiteco, etc.)? How many developments are pending waiting for financing in Oak Park? Don't bother answering the questions -- they are rhetorical! There is a reason for the questions though. Do we have enough information yet to convince us that there is a real chance that all the development funding was wasted? Is there is no chance now or in the future that the type development we have been creating (For instance; Greater Downtown) will never generate tax revenue to repay the property owner investors? Have we reached the point that we need to say that no matter how much money we throw at DTOP, financial investors will look at the empty buildings, minimal developments, aging infrastructure, and high operating costs and decide that OP is too risky to invest in? Just asking!!


Posted: October 6th, 2012 11:09 PM

To Just Wondering: When did Sertus default on their project in Des Plaines? Why would the board put us in a situation with a company who has defaulted on a project? If we spend $9.7 million for another garage what will this do to the current millions in deficit the village still has because of parking garages? The iterim Parking Manager is now the interim Village Manager so it seems as though nothing has improved.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: October 6th, 2012 8:36 AM

Sertus is playing the village board, passing their project risk onto the village. Mr. Glazier stated that "we won't submit the permit set (due Nov. 1, already extended 60 days) unless we have a guaranteed maximum contract price that fits our pro forma." What happens if Sertus does not obtain financing? While the village continues to expend public funds on the design of the public parking garage, Sertus is still, as Mr. Glazier says, "dialing for dollars", for financing.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: October 5th, 2012 7:34 PM

This is not explained properly. Anna Lothson, according to Raymond Johnson, Sertus does not own the land. Here is what's going to happen. No hotel, condo, etc., will be built. The board will approve the garage to be built and the 300 spaces will never be used because there is no need for that many spaces without any hotel, condo, etc.. Can the board really get away with taken millions of dollars away from tax payers? Of course they can because the W.J. does not report what is really going on.

what's the point?  

Posted: October 5th, 2012 5:00 PM

The whole reason this area was cleared was to make a hotel and retail stores, now it's just a condo/apt development? Oak Park has plenty of those AND unfinished or empty.

Just Wondering  

Posted: October 5th, 2012 3:13 PM

If Sertus is unable to obtain construction financing for this project, what is the Village's Plan B with the garage? This is a real possibility considering the potential hit Sertus's credit took when they defaulted on their project in Des Plaines. The loan officer better hope his board doesn't ask him that question in committee!! Yikes, sure would be tough for a loan officer to get behind a suburban apartment deal given the weak economy. Putting his job at risk?? Tough hurdle for Sertus.

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