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.