Oak Park seeks developer for old Madison Volvo site

Two developers interested in former auto dealer site

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

The village has renewed its efforts to market and develop a half-acre piece of property at 260 Madison St., which it purchased nine years ago from a Volvo dealership for $1.5 million.

The location previously was home to Shepherd Motors Volvo dealership, which purchased the property in February of 1995 for $350,000.

Oak Park hired real estate broker David King in September 2009 to market the property, which is now being used for storage by the village and the park district. King could not be reached for comment.

On May 6, the village issued a legal notice soliciting proposals for the purpose of entering a "development agreement with a private developer."

The proposal process deadline was May 14. John Hedges, interim executive director of the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation, said in a telephone interview that two proposals have been submitted, but he declined to elaborate on the details.

Hedges described the 12,500-square-foot building as a "good-sized space with a good-sized side yard" that could be developed as "anything from a hardware store to restaurants."

He noted that the building could be torn down, but it was designed by noted architect E.E. Roberts. Hedges said OPEDC staff is reviewing the two proposals, and if neither is feasible, "We would go out and look for some more proposals."

Hedges said development on Madison Street, North Avenue, Harrison Street and Roosevelt Road are priorities for the economic development entity.

"We're just anxious to get things going," Hedges said. "It's just time to find a developer that will go in there or someone who might want to use the building."

He said there is no set price for the property, and the final deal will be a combination of the price and proposed use.

The village could lose more than a million in the deal, having paid more than $1.5 million for the property less than 10 years ago.

According to news coverage from 2004, a memo from the village's director of village development services stated that several businesses had expressed interest in purchasing the property. 

"In a fairly short timeframe … the village should be able to sell the property to a business user and recoup the purchase funds," according to the memo, which was quoted in a story published by Wednesday Journal.

The village's business service manager, Loretta Daly, did not return phone calls requesting additional information.

Email: tim@oakpark.com

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Posted: May 23rd, 2014 12:53 PM

Car dealerships also want to be located near other dealership to ensure their products are cross-shopped. Almost everyone who buys a car cross-shops multliple makes/models. A 2 mile stretch down Ogden in Westmont pretty much offers all the car manufacturers (even Aston Martin). Boutiques and restaurants follow the same format..the more similar businesses the better. Competition and increased foot traffic lead to more sales opportunities. We should be thankful Volvo didn't bail.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 23rd, 2014 12:18 PM

Car Dealerships need more property than Oak Park has. Consider the size of the showroom, the amount of space needed for inventory, the amount of space needed for service, parts, and paint department. Dealerships left Madison in the 1990's because of the lack of usable space. To get a sense, take a look at the space of the old and new Volvo dealership. Even with larger space, new dealership has to rent space across the street for vehicle inventory.


Posted: May 23rd, 2014 9:34 AM

Rather than speculate, can someone say exactly how much money the Village "made" by entering into this deal to keep the Volvo dealership?

Adam Smith  

Posted: May 23rd, 2014 5:48 AM

The only "news" here is good; the Village is actively seeking purchasers of mothballed Village owned properties. That is all good news. The property was never worth what the Village paid for it so why complain now?

Chris from Oak Park  

Posted: May 22nd, 2014 5:58 PM

A car dealership is exactly the kind of business Oak Park needs to hang onto. They generate a lot of sales tax revenue. I am not thrilled that we have to cut deals with businesses to keep them in our town but the present reality is that they are all looking for a handout or a deal and if they don't get it here they will go somewhere where they can. If you know how to change that dynamic I am all ears, and if you think you can do better than the present village government then run for office.


Posted: May 22nd, 2014 4:25 PM

Gotta sell a lot of Volvos to cover the $1 million that they'll lose on the real estate deal - not to mention any tax incentives were passed along to Volvo to stay in Oak Park. I wonder if OP would have gone through this hoopla to keep a Hyundai dealer. Probably not since it doesn't fit with the granola tax and spend image of Oak Park.

Greek Lightning from Oak Park  

Posted: May 22nd, 2014 3:13 PM

Yes, it's curious that the public works building burned down...followed by the Volvo purchase & the new Volvo dealership...and voila! A new $20 million public works palace...hmmm.

Ray Johnson from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: May 22nd, 2014 12:33 PM

During the public/private partnership to build the new Volvo, the 'right of first refusal' to purchase this property from Volvo was offered. The village purchase provided financial resources to Volvo for their new building and a plan at the time to move Car-X from OP/Madison to this "Volvo site", thus giving the Village contiguous properties at OP/Madison for redevelopment. The negotations with Car-X didn't progress, the fire at Public Works created need for space, and here we are are today.


Posted: May 22nd, 2014 12:21 PM

I would guess OP bought the old Volvo site as part of a deal to keep Volvo in OP and the sales tax revenue a new car dealership generates. (other concessions regarding sales tax revenue can be found here: http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/12-16-2008/Oak-Park-Volvo-plans-to-expand/). Car dealerships don't gravitate towards "dealership deserts" such as OP when it's much better for business to build a new dealership in an area flush with them (think 159th st in TP, Golf Road, Ogden)

Brian Slowiai from Westchester  

Posted: May 22nd, 2014 11:22 AM

Memory is a bit fuzzy, however I recall the Volvo dealer moving out at the same time there was a fire at the village garage. Village bought the Volvo dealership,empty or soon to be empty and moved fleet operations down to Volvo, Volvo went to Harlem.Might be mistaken.

B from OP  

Posted: May 22nd, 2014 11:02 AM

What's the reason the Village purchased the property for 1.5 mil in the first place? Will they buy my house if I decide to leave? Why in the world did they not let the Volvo dealer put the land up for sale and let a private buyer purchase? Was this an "investment"? What's going on here? The Village purchases property so they can control who buys it? Is that what this is? So many questions...

Marty Bracco from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 22nd, 2014 10:36 AM

OPDad, simple blocking and tackling appears to be exactly what this new board is trying to do here. They're actively seeking private parties to develop the property. There is no "grandiose plan" upon which to comment yet. Let's first see what responses they get from the proposal process. What exactly would you have them do?


Posted: May 22nd, 2014 8:46 AM

Buy high, sell low. What can go wrong with that investment strategy? The Village Board has a pretty consistent record of being lousy at business (see green energy debacle for a current example). Yet, the hubris of each new board carries them into some new fancy at taxpayer costs. Please do us all a favor. Scrap your grandiose plans and stick to simple blocking and tackling.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: May 21st, 2014 11:28 AM

@ Peter: Thank You. Isnt or was Moranis garden shop across the street?

Peter Traczyk from Oak Park  

Posted: May 21st, 2014 10:55 AM

@Brian: The D97 Facilities Committee studied the property and determined the building was not suitable for rehab, but would need to be demolished. More importantly, the Village has indicated its preference for private development at the site. To conform to the Madison Street Plan, D97 would need to be on the second floor, with the first floor being retail. For very good reasons the Illinois School Code does not allow school districts to develop commercial space, so some other entity would need to build a multi-story building and then condo space to D97. That's proven to be very difficult in this market, as attested by the delayed Highland's project just down the street.


Posted: May 21st, 2014 10:53 AM

This might be a good opportunity for a garden center. The lofty, open space could be kept largely intact. It has a decent sized open side yard for plants/trees. Is the parking behind the building permit or metered?

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: May 21st, 2014 10:34 AM

How about re habbing the building for the school board offices? With a parking lot that can be rented out between 6 pm and 6 am.

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: May 21st, 2014 9:35 AM

"Hedges described the 12,500-square-foot building as a "good-sized space with a good-sized side yard" that could be developed as "anything from a hardware store to restaurants."" A hardware store? Seriously? Once again - wasn't Madison once considered a "destination" street so people would come and spend time shopping, perhaps dining? I can see it now - "I know we live in Iowa, but Oak Park is supposed to have this really nice hardware store - let's spend the weekend there!"

Marty Bracco from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 21st, 2014 8:51 AM

The "what" is to be determined by the marketplace. As long as OPDC & the trustees have no expectation of recouping our $ 1.5 M, then development can hopefully proceed quickly and this property can start generating taxes again. Also, it's nice that this building was designed by EE Roberts, however that shouldn't stand in the way should a viable developer wish to demolish it and build new. Having been inside this building I have a hard time envisioning how it could be re-purposed without huge expense, though I will defer to the professionals.


Posted: May 21st, 2014 5:26 AM

"The village could lose more than a million in the deal, having paid more than $1.5 million for the property less than 10 years ago." That says it all about the Village's actions; speculative buying as the "bubble" was expanding. But, all eyes were diverted to Lake Street, leaving Madison to wallow in neglect with the exception of grandiose plans like downsizing the roadway to one lane. Oak Park now have this and other privately owned vacancies to get filled with what? Good luck OPDC.

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