Whiteco building in downtown Oak Park put up for sale

Controversial complex opened in 2009; would new owner abide by original agreement?


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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

The Whiteco building on Harlem Avenue, built after a drawn-out controversy about design, density and underlying village development and funding mechanisms, is on the market.

Known officially as Oak Park Place Apartments, the 14-story, 204-unit luxury apartment building, is officially for sale, according to Moran & Company, an apartment investing firm which has the property listed on its website: http://www.moranandco.com/listings/property.asp?id=881.

Village President David Pope said the sale could indicate that the rental market is strengthening across not just Oak Park, but the rest of the country.

"I imagine from Whiteco's perspective this is an opportune time," Pope said. "From the village's perspective, what really matters the most to us is that any transaction complies with the redevelopment agreement."

One aspect of that agreement, Pope said, was having the building remain a rental property for 10 years following the building's opening in order to increase the number of accessible rental units in Oak Park.

Greg Marsey, a former village trustee, however, said he thought the news didn't align with the company's initial statements on its commitment to Oak Park.

"It's a little bit surprising because when Whiteco came to town, they made a big point that they wanted to be part of the community. They wanted to bring the project," said Marsey, who served from 2005-2009. "I'm assuming the project has not performed as expected."

If true, he said, it wouldn't surprise him. The high rent prices in comparison with other units in the village, he suggested, would be the "biggest impediment to their success."

Marsey said the village's fundamental concerns moving forward are that all the contractual obligations agreed upon in the initial redevelopment agreement must be transferred to the new owners. That's one way village officials can ensure the tax revenue expected from the project will be upheld.

As long as the transaction follows those stipulations, he thinks new ownership shouldn't have any major impact on the village.

Pope said Whiteco as a company has been an active part in the community since opening and has been supportive of groups like the Downtown Oak Park business association. Because of that, he suspects the sale is purely a business decision.

A representative from Whiteco did not return calls seeking comment on the sale.

One aspect of the Whiteco property that garnered attention during its development was the adjacent parking structure. Although Marsey couldn't recall all the details of what the village and Whiteco agreed upon, he said parking was another part of the contract that needed to be analyzed.

Simone Boutet, Oak Park's acting village attorney, said she wasn't the attorney when the deal was finalized but that she will be reviewing documents to see what agreements were made. At this point, she said it's too early to say how or if the new owners would have to abide by the same conditions.

There have also been construction-related issues in the parking facility, which was a major expansion of the existing Holley Court garage. The village government currently has an agreement for Whiteco to make the repairs to the garage.

The project was controversial from the start, owing to its size and density. It went through a multi-year approval process and several notable redesigns before it was finally approved. The project was completed in 2008 and its apartment units have been basically well received. The Trader Joe's on the ground level has been successful, but two additional small retail spaces have gone unfilled. A proposal to allow a Weight Watchers facility to fill one of the spaces is currently before the village's zoning board.

Because the first-floor space below the apartments is zoned for retail stores, non-retail options seeking to move into the space have had a difficult time getting village approval.

The apartments, which opened in 2009, include a combination of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom options. There are also four townhome units on the north edge of the property, along Ontario Street.

The building has gotten much attention since it was first proposed, owing to its sheer size, the village's role in assembling the parcel and giving up surface parking. Design issues were also much debated and the massing of the building was shifted multiple times before it was finally OK'd.

Besides its size, the aesthetics have been questioned and much debated, including past comments by village trustees and local architects who suggested its largely concrete façade didn't fit into Oak Park's typical brick image. When the structure was completed, the reactions were mixed. Some criticized its shape and color scheme; others suggested it was a good use of density and unique architectural design styles.

Email: anna@oakpark.com Twitter: @AnnaLothson

Reader Comments

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Posted: May 10th, 2012 7:40 AM

@Duh I've thought the same thing before about why nobody ever knocks on my door to get my thoughts--or at least campaign for their POV. No townhalls to take straw polls. No weekly office hours to come say, "hey, I've got this problem on my street can you please fix it." We could do a lot to improve resident-government communication in this town.


Posted: May 10th, 2012 5:45 AM

@voter, you show your age: Bunk? I live near a controversial OP project, and future project, and I can tell you I communicated, a lot, to the board and never heard a word back from them. Ray Johnson once said he replies to emails from citizens: a lie, complete fabrication, BUNK, if you will. They never once walked down my block and knocked on doors to ask the home owners what they think. They don't listen, they don't ask and they only do what those who vote them in want, the VMA payers.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: May 9th, 2012 9:26 PM

Silly. As usual your crowds of supporters are very quiet. Your vitriol for those who use facts to tell the story shows just how threatened you are. Why are you threatened?


Posted: May 9th, 2012 9:12 PM

There are plenty of Oak Parkers who in favor of all those examples I put forth. Just not the oes who chime in here on OP.Com. Dont make something out be something its not. Typical political BUNK!


Posted: May 9th, 2012 9:10 PM

I think the Village Board does listen to citizens. It just so happens that people like John Murtagh happen to be on the other side of many of the issues that they have decided. Does that mean that there were no OP People in favor of those decisions? I think not. To say the board is not listening top the people is WRONG and inaccurate. Its only the people who didnt have an outcome in their favor that say this. Does Whiteco, Lake and Forest, Comcast come to mind.

Mel Song from Oak Park  

Posted: May 9th, 2012 5:25 PM

I remember 2009, a lawsuit filed against the village & developers to halt the project. It got a TRO but the village/developer lawyers with their nice suits were too much for the single young lawyer. Who filed the suit? Les Golden. As usual, he was correct, we see in hindsight. Historic Hoppe bldg gone, the trees & bushes all cut down, the roads still bloody with the roadkill of raccoons, rabbits, & squirrels. The government types fear Les Golden because he tells the truth-just another example

Hey Butch! Wrong Again... from Oak Park  

Posted: May 9th, 2012 9:31 AM

@ Butch....wrong again: (Googled Headline from 2009): Low voter turnout hands win to DCOB, stuns IVB - Berwyn Talk Forum

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 8th, 2012 11:01 PM

Kyle - exactly -- resident have to take back ownership of the village and that is done by voting. No other way! The best way to get people to vote is to expose the issues and give them a wide range of candidates to select from.


Posted: May 8th, 2012 10:20 PM

John, my take on the apathy is that people have given up getting attention from the Village--esp. that isn't a demand for money. The argument is always about some pet project, meanwhile the roads/alleys are crumbling, the neighborhood police enforcement is lacking, sewers are clogged, there's litter everywhere. It's time we take the focus off the business district. People might care again if you ask what they need on the street where they live.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 8th, 2012 9:27 PM

Tough Choice - I agree 100% with your last sentence ("let's LISTEN to the CURRENT issues that are important to the taxpayers, then elect someone willing to address them, regardless of party affiliation.") I have commented on many issues during the last year and have attempted to be factual and relevant. My intent has been to surface issues that will encourage voters to participate in choosing our elected officials. In the last two elections, less than 20% of Oak Park registered voters cast a ballot. To me, that is the most critical issue the village faces - apathy. It is my view that the apathy is the result of an incredible lack of meaningful issues discussion during local campaigns. If we can increase the percentage of people voting to the level of Berwyn, Melrose Park, Riverside, and Franklin Park (2009 ave registered voter turnout - 38%), then the election will be a success, irrespective of whom get elected.

Tough Choice  

Posted: May 8th, 2012 5:56 PM

I give up - polar opinions are a big part of the problem. Brilly thinks everything VMA does is great; others say everything they do is horrible. The truth is in the middle, a place that local and national politics has forgotten. Kyle is right, let's LISTEN to the CURRENT issues that are important to the taxpayers, then elect someone willing to address them, regardless of party affiliation.


Posted: May 8th, 2012 5:50 PM

How could Trapani have given the new board members miserable treatment when they came in the election after she left? Murtagh will apologize again for his mis statements. No credibility here. These are just the ones that someone cares to speak up on. Just think.

Marion Street is the BEST  

Posted: May 8th, 2012 5:43 PM



Posted: May 8th, 2012 5:41 PM

Marion St speaks for itself. I need say nothing. The parking lots are full for some reason. Uptick

Ben Wong from OP  

Posted: May 8th, 2012 3:54 PM

Empty retail storehouses. High vacancy rate. Destruction of architectually significant Hoppe building to make room. Cutting down of all the bushes and trees and destruction of rabbit and squirrel habitat (found squashed all over Harlem during construction). Mockery of OP's architectural tradition. Thanks VMA for another multi-million dollar taxpayer funded fiasco. The Gateway to Oak Park!!!

Tough Choice  

Posted: May 8th, 2012 2:02 PM

@bricky - Yes, I think it's silly (and environmentally unfriendly) to use a fortune of tax dollars to heat sidewalks, your logic and example is flawed and foolish. Opening the street helped business like it helped Lake Street; not bluestone, bricks and heated sidewalks. Unlike most who opine in this issue, I actually have over 25 years experience in this arena.


Posted: May 8th, 2012 2:02 PM

I'll vote for anybody who'll quit yacking about the past & start fixing today's problems. I'd invite the VMA to my neighborhood for some coffee & we can talk about the potholes, getting the drunks out of my alley, telling the police to write some speeding tickets on my street, etc..

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: May 8th, 2012 1:58 PM

Bricklicious.com, you are full of Silly things aren't you. Murtagh knows and has everything correct. You think Marion street is a success? You are just being Silly again.


Posted: May 8th, 2012 1:53 PM

Not having to shovel is dumb? Do you prefer to walk down a street with ice and snow on it when shopping? Seems pretty obvious to me that if you dont have to pay someone to shovel and your sidewalks can be clear of snow and ice its a no brainier. You must be one those political hacks. Next you will want the building owners not to paint the outside walls. It costs too much. Marion is a success and there is no denying that, although some will try with all their might.

Tough Choice  

Posted: May 8th, 2012 1:40 PM

@brickless - You are making my point. Saving the mall was dumb; spending too much on heated sidewalks, etc - also dumb. Find the middle rational ground and I'm on board.

Lets look at the Successes  

Posted: May 8th, 2012 1:39 PM

The political hacks on here will only have you believe that the VMA is the demon organization that they portray it to be. The strategy of the Anti-Vma people (namely John Murtagh and Co)has been to denounce the VMA and associate them with ONLY the bad things and not reciprocate and give them credit for the good. Its as obvious as a kid liking cotton candy at the circus.The VMA has been around for a long time and has done a good job. Is anybody perfect-No. Have they made Oak Park what it is-YES


Posted: May 8th, 2012 1:27 PM

Murtaghs wrong again. The yr was when Pope was elected Pres as an Independent. The only VMA slate member winning that yr was Sandra Sokol. Does anyone remember the NON VMA people PROTESTING AGAINST the Marion St mall being turned back into a street. Hmm. Of course not. It was a bad idea. There has only been millions of private dollars put into commercial properties becasue of that reopening. People are coming and shopping. It spurned more investment on Lake. How sad that we forget these things


Posted: May 8th, 2012 12:31 PM

It also begs the question, what are the chances the VMA would leave the current crop of elected officials behind & endorse new candidates?


Posted: May 8th, 2012 12:26 PM

Good point, Tough Choice. How about a happy medium? I'm a reasonable voter...if the VMA would do their job (it's right there in their mission "responsive govt, diversity, balanced growth")I'd have no problem voting for one of their candidates. It's about the lack of results, not the VMA.

Tough Choice  

Posted: May 8th, 2012 11:51 AM

So we had the group (Milstein, et al) that did nothing and opposed all growth/development and now the group that does a lot of bad decisions, mismanagement and think they are real estate developers with limitless taxpayer funds. Tough call actually.... is there a door 3?

History Lesson  

Posted: May 8th, 2012 11:38 AM

The VMA never lost their majority, as Trustee Greg Marsey flipped to their side immediately after the election, leaving Trustees Milstein, Baker and Brock to fend for themselves, 3 against 4.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: May 8th, 2012 12:37 AM

Bricklicious.com, thank you for not wasting time making up more crap. John Butch Murtagh certainly knows the facts which are true, unlike your garbage. Go back to your old name of Silly. It was a lot more fun and fitted well with your answers.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 7th, 2012 11:45 PM

Brick, I remember when the VMA lost the majority and instigated a disaster by giving no cooperation to the new board members at all. I remember the post-midnight meetings, and the miserable treatment President Joanne Trapani (VMA) gave to the board members. I also remember the nasty essays written by the VMA Officers about the majority (they are still on the VMA website) and the $70,000 that the VMA spent to win the next election. Yep!, Beware People -- that could be a VMA slogan.


Posted: May 7th, 2012 9:39 PM

@Brickilicious. "Don't you see that our real estate values are higher....than surrounding communities?" Not true if you compare us to RF, but, yep, true if you compare OP to Berwyn, Austin and Cicero. Congrats? Yikes! Also, check the stats, but the same claim could be made regarding prop values when the "last time VMA lost a majority of seats in an election" - OP prop values skyrocketed! Was this because of VMA defeat? Of course not,but in your simplistic world, it would be. Vote NO on VMA!!!


Posted: May 7th, 2012 9:29 PM

Q- If you dont remember , then you are clueless! Sorry, I cant waste my time becasue you fail to recognize disaster when its right in front of you. The false rumor is how bad of shape Oak Park is in. Didnt you see that our real estate values are higher and have maintained more value than surrounding communities? I know, it must be another manipulation of the data. When things are bad its fact, when things are good its wrong. Silly Me!

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: May 7th, 2012 9:03 PM

Name when that happened and what was the disaster Bricklicious.com instead of starting false rumors thinking people who want change in Oak Park, will believe that.


Posted: May 7th, 2012 8:58 PM

Last time the VMA lost a majority of seats in an election......... IT WAS A DISATER!!! Just sayin! BEWARE PEOPLE.

paul from oak park  

Posted: May 7th, 2012 5:02 PM

If there was one person that predicted this sale during the approval process then there were one hundred. Everybody on the outside of this project could see the folly and the lies and the misrepresentations and the sham studies and the dirty tricks of all involved. Now one of America's richest men gets to walk away with all our hard earned money a few short years after he completed this project. Shame on Pope, Lueck, Johnson and Trapani for selling us out.

Slogan for the opposition to the VMA in the coming election  

Posted: May 7th, 2012 12:46 PM

This and other fiascos in development, lost businesses, misspent Million (People Soft debacle, http://zd.net/ceQe2R)calls for change. People who care about good governance should think "Walk away from the VMA!" One of the reasons ousting VMA hasn't worked before is sometimes weak candidates despite the fact that the VMA often has weak, well-credentialed weak!, candidates. The VMA also still has the power to drive decent people who are fairly elected from office, as we have seen in recent year

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: May 7th, 2012 11:59 AM

Oakparker from Oak Park, why do you and others think that Sertus is going to build at Lake and Forest. They don't have the money. All they have is your percentage of the land you own as a tax payer that Pope gave away. Sertus was using the land to show investors that he had a financial interest too.

Oakparker from Oak Park  

Posted: May 6th, 2012 11:51 PM

Lived here 40 years - paid for streets to taken out, malls put in, malls taken out, streets put back in, disastrous building projects (including Whiteco), and TIF districts. Taxes have gone up, but services have gone down. Lake and Forest will be a disaster for future taxpayers and its neighbors. Would be nice if the Village made decisions that benefited all of us.

Cynthia mungerson from Chicago  

Posted: May 6th, 2012 8:13 PM

A boutique hotel in Marshall Field's--perfect!

observer too  

Posted: May 6th, 2012 12:51 PM

Wouldnt condos bring in more tax dollars than the building as a rental? What ever happened to the open market philosophy? Someone wants to spend $80 Million in our village to build a building with both commercial and residential. Who are we to say yea or nea in regards to it getting tenants or not. Thats not the village's duty or obligation. I think the burden is on the people putting up the $80 Million!


Posted: May 5th, 2012 8:17 PM

What a great investment for Whiteco, um I mean those individuals that benefited from this deal. A horrible deal for Oak Park. The 10 years moratorium on condos applies only to Whiteco, not the new owner. The Village Board believed that Whiteco would be a long-term investor in OP. One has got to love the incompetence at the Village Board, it makes for a great sit-com.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 5th, 2012 4:45 PM

Hard to believe that de gustibus non est disputandum works in OP. Seems to me that there is not much of anything that goes unchallenged in OP. As a Monday morning quarterback, I agree with Galen's votes. The investment return on taxpayer's money has been miniscule and shameful. With the condo market recovery lagging badly and always at risk, it might be the best move for Whiteco. On the other hand, a Sertus approval would bite into the Whiteco rentals. I am not convinced that the current state of Downtown OP can attract enough high end renters to succeed. As a male, I find nothing to buy but movie tickets and restaurants.

Galen Gockel from oak park  

Posted: May 5th, 2012 9:40 AM

When I was on the Village Board, I had the privilege of voting against the project twice, once in 2002 and once in 2005 as I recall. The second time was because we sold the underlying land, a surface parking lot, to Whiteco at a fire-sale price. The redevelopment agreement with Whiteco provided that after 10 years it can be converted from rental to condos. Don't know whether a new owner would "inherit" that provision. I can't comment on its aesthetics; de gustibus non est disputandum.

Tom from OP  

Posted: May 5th, 2012 9:34 AM

And the asking price will be what Whiteco invested, plus a nice profit, less our village money. We will be stuck with it forever, while they ditch it.

Aging Disgracefully  

Posted: May 5th, 2012 8:34 AM

Loving Eric Davis's suggestion.

Maggie from Oak Park  

Posted: May 5th, 2012 12:00 AM

Looks like one of the old Chicago public housing projects. Who would want it? Really, does it keep in our beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright style of architecture? Thank you for our Village allowing this ugly building. The next project that does not fit in will be the Lake and Forest building

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: May 4th, 2012 11:07 PM

life long Oak Parker, the Lake and Forest project will not be built. The purpose of the project was to take the land away from tax payers and give it to Sertus, so Sertus could use it as their portion of the investment into the project to get other investors to invest. The plan didn't work and Pope and his crew are not getting the land back for tax payers.


Posted: May 4th, 2012 10:35 PM

The amateurism and fiscal irresponsibility - to say nothing about lack of taste - comes back to haunt the VMA which attempts to run Oak Park.

life long Oak Parker  

Posted: May 4th, 2012 7:14 PM

The VMA needs to listen to the taxpayers. I thought they are called "Trustees" for a reason, to serve the taxpayers. Hmmm Is this what we can expect at Lake and Forest Ave? How has 100 Forest Place worked out? The VMA just continues to approve these mistakes. Shame on you. Listen to the people of Oak Park. What do you have in store for the taxpayers in the old Comcast building, more problems? Remember this at election time.


Posted: May 4th, 2012 7:07 PM

Sorry, I meant LOVELY hotel - never could type . . .

Ellen from Oak Park  

Posted: May 4th, 2012 7:06 PM

Eric has the right idea - That beautiful miniature Marshall Fields building would be a love hotel - and the parking is right there!

What's the price of buying this fiasco?  

Posted: May 4th, 2012 6:53 PM

Everything good about Oak Park in their ad is true, but not the building. Shame on the Commissions and Village Board that approved it, a mistake from conception. Those OP officials involved in this project's approval should resign and never be allowed to hold office here again. Not long ago people stayed there, short-term rentals, because of so many vacancies. The VMA is not qualified to run Oak Park but they still have the organization that can get their people elected to our detriment.

muriel schnierpw from Oak Park,il60302  

Posted: May 4th, 2012 6:33 PM

Eric your idea sounds good to me!!!!! MURIEL

alberg from Oak Park  

Posted: May 4th, 2012 6:28 PM

Does this mean the Village will get its multi-million dollar TIF money back from the sale? What about the repairs to the Village garage that was poorly designed and shoddily constructed by Whiteco? Has anybody compared the projected revenue vs expenses of this project - - and all of the other TIF projects of the Village? If not, why not? The taxpayers deserve to know if the Board has been an able steward of their tax money!

Marnie Rourke  

Posted: May 4th, 2012 5:24 PM

I have had an opportunity to tour the apartments. The inside of this building is even more distasteful than the outside. The apartments are so ill-fitted, they have to be very difficult to live in.

Eric Davis from Oak Park  

Posted: May 3rd, 2012 9:24 PM

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me, or rather, us. Instead of repeating this publicly-supported mistake at Forest and Lake for a new hotel, why not encourage the conversion of the adjacent empty former Marshall Field's building? It would make a terrific, elegant small(er) hotel, a little bit of les Grands Hotel Parisienne right here in River City? Deux oiseaux avec one stone.

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