Oak Park Township to buy long-vacant building

Government needs approval from registered voters

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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

The Oak Park Township is set to buy a long-vacant building on Oak Park Avenue, hoping to better serve local seniors. But in a quirk of township rules, the government body first needs approval from registered voters at a meeting next month.

The township has the two-story historic brick building at 126-134 S. Oak Park Ave. under contract at a price of $650,000, the township announced Monday. The building was originally supposed to be part of a high-profile condo project across the street from the CTA Green Line stop. But the economy tanked, and it, along with three other nearby properties, fell into foreclosure.

During the boom years a developer paid about $1 million for the building, but the township is getting a significant discount.

"We think, from the public's point of view, it's a pretty good deal," said F. David Boulanger, head of the township's board.

For the past decade or so, the township has been scouring Oak Park, looking for a new spot for its senior services, which are currently located on the fifth and sixth floors of the Oak Park Arms, 418 S. Oak Park Ave. Space is somewhat cramped at that location and it's a challenge for seniors to use a cramped elevator to go up five flights, according to Boulanger. Not to mention, the township is paying $120,000 in rent each year for the space.

About a year ago, the township set its sights on 126-134 Oak Park Ave., and has since been negotiating to seal the deal. They finally reached a contract on Friday, when Granite Realty got the title of the property from the bank which held it in foreclosure, Boulanger said. Calls to the head of the Oak Park-based real estate company, Robert Palley, on Tuesday were not returned immediately.

Boulanger said the township has saved up about $1.2, anticipating buying a property for senior services. With cash on hand, they won't need to take on debt or new taxes to make the purchase.

Along with the purchase price, they'll spend about $500,000 to renovate the property — including building an elevator, adding restrooms and constructing a catering kitchen. They're expecting to spend $60,000 a year in expenses, far short of the $120,000 rent at the Arms.

With the purchase, Cook County would pull the property from the tax rolls. If fully occupied by commercial tenants, the building would generate as much as $40,000 in property taxes, but Boulanger said the township will make up for that through the savings in not paying rent.

Upstairs would house the township's 25-person senior services staff, while the downstairs will be home to programs such as senior lunches, "red tape cutters" to help seniors obtain benefits, tax aid and free shuttle buses. After 3 p.m., the first floor would get used by youth services.

The township now has a 21-day period to evaluate the property, making sure it doesn't have any serious structural issues (though Boulanger said officials have already done their due diligence). In order to finalize the sale, the township must first hold a meeting to gain approval from registered Oak Park voters. They plan to do so on March 2, at 7 p.m. in the Veterans Room of the Oak Park Library, 834 Lake St.

Developer and Russian native Alex Troyanovsky bought the four properties near Oak Park Avenue and South Boulevard in 2006, taking out a $14.2 million mortgage. He planned to preserve the brick buildings while wrapping a glass, 42-unit condo tower around them.

But in August 2009, M&I Bank filed to foreclose on the mortgage, with $6.4 million still left to be paid. Boulanger said that Palley now owns the four properties, but the developer could not be reached for comment, and the information had not yet been entered into the Cook County Recorder of Deeds website.

The Village of Oak Park plans to spend about $2 million this year to spruce up the 100 block of South Oak Park Avenue — using brick streets and granite curbs. Zoning currently allows the township to use the building for senior services. But with the street project in the pipeline, Village President David Pope said the village may need to take a closer look at those rules to see if they still fit.

"With the new streetscape that is anticipated to be developed there, that may be an appropriate issue to revisit, Pope said.

Reader Comments

38 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

OPRF  

Posted: February 18th, 2011 8:20 PM

OP Township OVER levied for years! David Boulanger admits this in the article. To the tune of 1.2 million saved - for what? The building? How about lowering our taxes by lowering your levy and give OP taxpayers relief. If this is such a great idea, than why is this sprung on taxpayers as the 23rd hour? Typical government - screw the taxpayers and build a power structure.

Chris Goode from Oak Park  

Posted: February 18th, 2011 4:28 PM

@OPRF. Mr. Boulanger has made no comments other then to direct folks to information about the project and what the township does. I think this is helpful to the debaters as there are many who don't seem to have this information. He has used his real name (though not his affiliation with the township) and though one can assume he is in favor of the idea, he has expressed no opinion or "directed the debate" in any way.

OPRF  

Posted: February 18th, 2011 3:03 PM

Since David Boulanger is posting on this topic - in favor of Spending Tax Payer Money, full disclosure PLEASE! He is the current Township Supervisor (CEO). http://www.oakparktownship.org/aboutus/board.htm Are things THAT bad that Gov. elected officials want to direct the debate, with providing WHO they really are. No wonder you think this is such a wonderful idea - it is YOUR idea!

David Boulanger from Oak Park   

Posted: February 18th, 2011 6:34 AM

What Does the Township Do for You? Go to www.oakparktownship.org. Click on the link "What Does Your Township Do For You?" You will find these services explained: Senior, Youth, General Assistance (financial), Assessor, Voter, and Community Mental Health.

OPer  

Posted: February 17th, 2011 10:59 PM

Paul, if you read the article you're commenting on, you'd see that this is the OP township, not the Village of OP, making the purchase.

paul  

Posted: February 17th, 2011 1:46 PM

Ken: If you read the article you linked to, you'll see that the Oak Park Border's is staying.

paul  

Posted: February 17th, 2011 1:44 PM

I've learned not to trust the village with real estate. What's to say they won't buy the land, and then hand it plus a huge pile of taxpayer money to a developer who wants to put up a monstrosity?

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: February 17th, 2011 8:24 AM

I agree that townships are wasteful and obsolete but I believe most provide some functions which have to be provided by a govt entity. When closing down a township, those functions have to be transferred elsewhere.Closing down even the most obscure and duplicative government entity is very difficult. The township also eats up tax dollars which could be spent on, say, local schools. You won't hear village decision-makers talk about that though. Easier to raise taxes than to insist on efficiency

j.oak park from OP  

Posted: February 17th, 2011 8:13 AM

I am still unclear what the Oak Park Township does, exactly. I attended a meeting, a long time ago, and it was explained...I guess I wasn't really paying attention. I can't help but wonder if my not knowing what the township does is my fault or theirs? I also wonder why the services provided are not part of our regular village government services. There must be some economy of savings if the two were combined...

David Boulanger from Oak Park  

Posted: February 17th, 2011 8:05 AM

The Township has worked hard to be open in its operation and efficient in its services. Readers are encouraged to learn more about the purchase by going to www.oakparktownship.org and reviewing the detailed information on the six links that are embedded in the News Release: 1-4 about Senior, Youth, Financial and Pedestrian/Commercial features of the new location and 5 & 6 about planned Block Enhancements and Space and Upgrade features. After you have reviewed the links, e-mail us your questions

tax paying OP resident  

Posted: February 16th, 2011 6:46 PM

RENT THE FRIGGING BLDG!!!!!!!! HASN'T OP LEARNED YET THAT IT ISN'T IN THE REAL ESTATE BUSINESS???? Get real and get smart. Rent it.... that way, you won't be stuck with the exorbidant property taxes!!Oh, I guess that maybe the Township doesn't have to pay taxes? All I know is that OP better wake up because we are leaving ,and many others are following because of this abuse of power. Just let the taxpayers deal with it! Good bye Oak Park!!!

Morgan from "Oak Park Township"  

Posted: February 16th, 2011 4:24 PM

My husband and I think townhip government is typically a wastefull form of govenment. Do you agree? You can see many Illinois township's salary information at the Illinois Better Government Association website. Simply click on the salary database. Oak Park is included along with many others. You can sort by township and other types of government. A great website for learning about waste in govenment.

Morgan from "Oak Park Township"  

Posted: February 16th, 2011 4:03 PM

What are the chances of a 10 year search resulting in the "perfect" property being accross the street from the main township offices. This location is simply convenient for township staff and logistics, not the most appropriate location that could be found for a senior facililty.

m.cozzens  

Posted: February 16th, 2011 1:43 PM

I applaud the Township for their committment to our senior citizens. After years of carefully searching for an appropriate,cost efficient property,while reserving monies to avoid the need for a referendum, they have finally found it. Having served in the past as a Township Collector and Trustee, I witnessed firsthand the extreme care with which the Township levies taxes, approves budgets, and devotes itself to providing high quality services for the most vulnerable members of our community.

Ken  

Posted: February 16th, 2011 1:37 PM

Maybe they can get a deal by taking over the lease from Border's on Lake St. http://chicagobreakingbusiness.com/2011/02/nearly-half-of-chicago-area-borders-to-close.html

C.L  

Posted: February 15th, 2011 10:01 PM

Township Gov. is Outdated. Illinois has the most Townships - and Cook County has an overabundance. They were meant either for a rual area and different time. OP really needs to debate the township issue - but start by Defeating this proposal to SPEND more of our Money. WHY - what a waste.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: February 15th, 2011 6:26 PM

Perhaps Oak Park would like to invest in all of its seniors by reducing their extraordinarily high property taxes. The existing senior reductions provide little relief.

Ryan Vaskovsky from Oak Park  

Posted: February 15th, 2011 6:15 PM

Township residents should know that the township is also paying a large amount of rent for office space at 1100 Lake Street. This leased space is home to the Oak Park Mental Health Board, an entity of Oak Park Township government. It would be nice to achieve some economies of scale and have the mental health board housed in the same building as a senior center. The rent paid for Lake street is a big waste of money. A senior center and the mental health board should share the same building.

Lynn K.  

Posted: February 15th, 2011 5:27 PM

@Nick H. The zoning restriction about first floor use for retail only applies to certain areas and I'm pretty sure O.P. Ave south of the tracks is not in one. To reiterate what Dan Haley said, this is NOT a Village project. The Township is a separate entity over which the Village has no control. Whether you like the proposal or not, don't blame or credit Village Hall.

Galen Gockel  

Posted: February 15th, 2011 4:58 PM

Finally the Township Senior Services staff will have adequate space after about ten years of active searching. (The Comcast building, BTW, had been evaluated and found to be in need of a far more expensive build-out). Further, the proposed new building has been unable to attract tenants since a marginal laundromat moved out a long time ago; there was no evidence it could be occupied going forward. Plus, its time Oak Park started investing in its seniors; we're way behind comparable suburbs

OP Resident  

Posted: February 15th, 2011 2:45 PM

Township government is an expense Oak Park can no longer afford.

Adam Smith  

Posted: February 15th, 2011 12:47 PM

Economic development in Oak Park is starting to remind of the Lawndale neighborhood in Chicago where they fill most of the empty storefronts with social services uses.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: February 15th, 2011 12:36 PM

Didn't West Suburban just open a senior center? How many do we need. And is providing free home-delivered food to seniors merely because they are seniors the best use of supposedly scarce government resources. Or any other free services for that matter. This is the 21st century when attaining the age of 50, 65, 75 or older does not mean instant decreptitude. The senior service industrial complex seems to be expanding, however.

Anne from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: February 15th, 2011 12:06 PM

Hey, Sherlock, a lot of seniors can't "come to the office" or get out to a restaurant or even the grocery store. If George's wanted to help with THAT problem, maybe somebody there should have spoke up and made the Township an offer.

Bill   

Posted: February 15th, 2011 11:46 AM

The proposed use of the first floor will be to prepare food to serve on-site or delivery to seniors.Why do we need to create what is already provided by dozens of tax paying businesses. Ask George's if he would like to feed 10 to 15 additional seniors each day and prepare take out for a bunch more.In today's mobile world it seems so yesterday to build out office space for employees who's clients never come to the office.

Tom Coffman from oak Park  

Posted: February 15th, 2011 11:10 AM

That building needs a restaurant. Too bad they kicked out the one that was there before. How about putting the township services in the upper floors of the old Marshall Fields building? You know, where the trustees would not allow a school. Zoning is a key issue here.

Nick H  

Posted: February 15th, 2011 10:40 AM

I'm pretty sure Oak Park passed a zoning law that requires the first floors of all building located downtown to be used only for retail. This proposal wont get passed the first vote.

j.oakpark  

Posted: February 15th, 2011 10:32 AM

Trib local states $500,000G for build out. Total 1.2 million for property and construction. I am neither for or against. I would like to suggest that the comcast building might be a better location. It is not far from the Oak Park Arms and has parking.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: February 15th, 2011 9:43 AM

Maybe in the very long run this will make financial sense. Maybe. But at 120K current rent, it will take over 5 years just to break even on the purchase price. And since its previous use was completely different, there will be very substantial build-out costs. Also, there's the annual ongoing costs like utilities, maintenance, etc. (which are presumably included in the current rent). And, of course, its removal from the tax rolls. Call me a cranky taxpayer, but my gratitude is on hold.

Dan Haley from Wednesday Journal  

Posted: February 15th, 2011 8:09 AM

A clarification to the earlier comment regarding this project. This proposal is from Oak Park Township government not village government. Two distinct taxing bodies and elected boards.

Cdonovan  

Posted: February 15th, 2011 7:59 AM

Please excuse the typo in the original posting; the address of the suggested building is 809 S. Oak Park Avenue.

Cdonovan  

Posted: February 15th, 2011 7:56 AM

Might the township consider a different location, specifically the vacant one story building at 909 S. Oak Park Avenue. It would boost the south area shopping district, and with only a ground floor and open floor plan it would be easier and less expensive to rehab it for the senior services. Either site would remove the property from the tax roles, and when the economy finally settles downs wouldn't 126-134 S. Oak Park Avenue be better suited for redevelopment?

Grateful Taxpayer  

Posted: February 15th, 2011 7:52 AM

Actually, the nifty thing about this, if you read the press release, is that this SAVES tax money for a change. The Township saves $120K in rent, saves seniors rickety elevator ride, and even if you take out the $50-60K in property taxes (which we're not getting now since it's vacant), taxpayers save about $50K a year - without raising taxes! Could you teach the State or the Feds this one?

Will  

Posted: February 15th, 2011 7:41 AM

Let's review. Oak Park Board embraces a developer who ignores code by using the wrong materials, builds too high, uses an architect with an invalid license. We harass (and chase out of town to Forest Park) a tax paying restaurant by making him take down his original art signs while the loved Tasty Dog slaps up garish ice cream cone placards and banners without recourse. To cover this mess, we get a senior center purchased by the cash bloated Township.

Just Curious  

Posted: February 15th, 2011 6:43 AM

I'm confused. We need to cut spending in our schools or increase taxes, yet there are so many of these little mentions about more ways to spend our tax dollars. Which is it? Is the village in desperate need of more of our hard earned money, or does the village need to be more careful about how our tax dollars are spent? When the village is holding these votes, how are the tax payers notified?

A local voter and property tax payer from Oak Park  

Posted: February 14th, 2011 10:27 PM

Before the Village gets into the real estate development business, voters should have the opportunity to evaluate all of the costs associated with this project; not only the initial purchase price, but the (conservatively) projected improvement costs and a careful evaluation of projected annual property operating expenses. The overall costs should be compared with alternative rental options.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: February 14th, 2011 9:35 PM

A quirk? Sounds sensible to me.

Finally from OP  

Posted: February 14th, 2011 9:13 PM

It's good to finally see something happening with some of that property which has been vacant for years now, ruining the quality of the retail area on OP Ave south of the tracks. With all the control the Village asserts on local development, and all the money they throw at developers, it's a travesty that this property has been allowed to be a blight for so long.

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