With Avenue development talks, retailers can only wait

? Deal too early to make plans, but those talked to would want to stay close if a development forced them to move.

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By DREW CARTER

With specific details of a possible re-development at the corner of South Boulevard and Oak Park Avenue undetermined, retailers who would be affected by the project said it is too early to begin making plans.

"I simply can't even think about it. It's certainly a long ways off," said Val Camilletti, who has owned Val's halla Records at the same location for more than 32 years and for five years prior operated another record store there.

Camilletti said she would prefer to not have to move, and to at least stay in her space until its 35th anniversary. But the recently turned 65 music aficionado said there's too much contingency in the deal to start packing boxes.

"I might decide to retire, have the sale of all sales and move on," she said.

However, the proposed development "could be another Whiteco or Stankus Hole," Camilletti said, referring to the Harlem/Ontario development pending the past two-plus years, and the failed tower development in the 1970s of the parcel now called 100 Forest Place.

WEDNESDAY JOURNAL reported last week that architect John Schiess, representing an unnamed developer, has a contract to purchase two buildings at, and just south of, the Oak Park/South corner. Schiess said on Monday that the developer, using a holding company, has purchased the 721 South Blvd. building, adjacent to and just to the east of the corner building, home now to David A. Noyes & Co.

A bid was made on a fourth building, 715-17 South Blvd, but the offer was too low, its owner said (see sidebar).

Schiess would neither confirm nor deny whether the unnamed developer was Alexander Troyanovsky, the president and investment side of Oak Park Development Group, with whom Schiess has worked in the past.

Schiess again this week emphasized the uncertainty of the Oak Park/South deal, saying the boundaries of a possible development have not been decided, and that many contingencies will need working through before the deal moves forward.

Retailers want to stay

Like Camilletti, David A. Noyes & Co., a stock brokerage and financial services firm, would like to keep the space it has held for decades.

The company has been at 721a South Blvd. since 1968, said Tom Bono, one of the company's owners and local branch manager.

"I'm not going to be leaving anytime soon," Bono said of the company's lease that extends a "good couple" of years.

If forced to move after that, Bono said the company would stay in the Oak Park/River Forest area, and that he would "be very interested to see" if moving back into a redone building "would be doable."

"Really I have to see how [the deal] turns out," he said.

Bono said he was surprised by last week's article, as he has not been contacted by either his former or new landlord concerning the sale.

"They've been noticeable by their absence," said Bill McClung, owner of the K9 Cookie Co., just west of Noyes.

McClung said that, if forced to move, he would want to stay in the Avenue district, but wouldn't want to move too many times. He estimated that moving the kitchen in which he bakes gourmet dog treats would cost $10,000.

"It's not something I'd want to do every day of the week," McClung said.

Camilletti could not recall how many years she has left on her lease, but said that it would not stand in the way of a development.

She said she would decide the same way she decided to stay at the location more than 32 years ago.

"When the decision is upon me, I'll make the right one for me," she said.

Noyes building historically significant

There's nothing to indicate that development of the South Boulevard/Oak Park Avenue corner would be any more contentious than those at Ridgeland and South or Marion and South, sources said.

Frank Heitzman, an architect and former chair of Oak Park's Historic Preservation Commission, said the way
the Noyes building makes use of terra cotta as a compositional material of the facade makes it historically significant.

Schiess agreed that if all three buildings were to be considered for the project he would bring plans before the Historic Preservation Commission early on.

The possibilities of building around one or more existing structures would be considered if needed, he said, adding that in a recent tinder loft building revamp project at Green and Superior streets in Chicago he dealt with preservation-like restrictive zoning requirements.

But as for community efforts to stop or change an Oak Park/South project, Heitzman, who is also head of the Oak Park Architectural League, praised Schiess' past projects and his ability to address public concerns on projects.

"John is very good at working with people to satisfy their concerns," Heitzman said. While working on designs of the Opera Club that will be built at the Marion/South site, Schiess came before the League three times and took that advice to heart in his designs, Heitzman said.

"He loves to work with people?#34;not just the community, but people who care what the community looks like," Heitzman said. He expects Schiess will be able to broker a similar deal at Oak Park/South.

Schiess agreed that nothing seemed problematic about developing the corner, but said, "Community involvement will be equally important in this project as with any other project we've worked on."

Contact Drew Carter at dcarter@wjinc.com

The unnamed developer placed a bid on the building at 715-17 South Blvd., just to the east of the Noyes building, but the offer was too low, almost by half, according to George Schneider, the building's owner.

Schneider said he nets $5,500 a month on leasing spaces in the two buildings on the property. To make that much profit on the investment of a cash payout would require a purchase price of approximately $1.2 million, almost double the $720,000 offer made, Schneider said.

"I'm happy with owning it," Schneider said.

Schneider did not make a counter offer, but said he would be open to negotiate.

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