Facing reality at Lake and Forest

Opinion: Editorials

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By Editorial

We've long been fans of the hotel, condo and retail project planned for Lake and Forest. We like the mix, the height, the public-private collaboration on parking. But we are also fans of reality.

So the news we broke last week that the developer, Sertus Capital Partners, will ask the village to open discussions of some alternative mix of uses at the prime corner, seems merely realistic. This project neatly straddles the real estate bubble of the past five years. The parcel was purchased at the absolute height of property values. And now a project must be made workable in the nadir of a withered economy and a housing collapse.

That's the reality. No one is to blame. Pointing fingers at either or both the developer or the village is just silly.

So start talking. Reassess what is most important to all parties at that intersection. For the village, new parking and higher property and sales taxes. For the developer, a path to being made whole or nearly so. All of this ought to be considered — and how about we do this out in the open — in light of the overall plan for Downtown Oak Park.

The economy will come back. This corner is a beauty. The Oak Park market is worth investment. Let's make a new plan.

Reader Comments

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bailmeout scotty from oak park  

Posted: June 23rd, 2011 7:29 PM

By all means, let's bail out Sertus for a bad investment choice by letting them keep those precious zoning waivers - now applied to building 20 stories of mostly apartments?! What are cronies for! If there's any money left, you can bail me out too for some real doozy investments that I "blamelessly" made in bubble economies so I can still afford to pay my "blamelessly" hefty Oak Park property taxes while competing for renters from this new apartment colossus. And the blameless $400k of waste from TIF lawsuits -blamelessly fogetaboutit! Unfortunately, I'm not a crony capitalist, nor as rich as the Sertus principal; but similarly not really blameless for dumb investment decisions either. Twenty stories of mostly apartments to the rescue! Is that the best we can do?

Facebook Verified  

Posted: June 21st, 2011 2:42 PM

Does anybody know the value of the Carleton and The Write Inn?

Mustard Mustache from Oak Park  

Posted: June 21st, 2011 2:15 PM

The time is right for the Tasty Dog Hotel--Oak Park's answer to the Hard Rock. "The Healthy Way To Sleep"

Taxpayer  

Posted: June 8th, 2011 7:39 AM

I think you overreacted to some words on their site. Sorry for that. They want to succeed just as much as VOP and I want them to succeed.

OP Resident  

Posted: June 8th, 2011 2:00 AM

I've enjoyed our back and forth, Taxpayer. It's time we put our differences to rest & let the forum discussion return to focusing on this issue. I agree a hotel could be a great asset to Oak Park. We'll see if the plan ever comes to fruition. I'll keep a good thought. My concern about the developer's description of DTOP as "once-dilapidated" is sincere. We drove through the Southern Ill. a few years & saw too many economically depressed communities. Oak Park never faced that problem. Sertus lied

Taxpayer  

Posted: June 7th, 2011 11:48 PM

Spend my tax dollars on a new hotel. Thank You

OP Resident  

Posted: June 7th, 2011 10:25 PM

We need to get away from shady characters like Sertus and SilverYoung. They have proven themselves to be dishonest and should not be trusted.

OP Resident  

Posted: June 7th, 2011 10:14 PM

The culprits you can point to are: Lueck, Brewer, Hedges, Johnson and, of course, our verbose President Pope. I can see his '13 campaign slogan developing--I brought you Comcast and Sertus and all while stealing District 200 money to pay for it. Vote for me. Blech!

OP Resident  

Posted: June 7th, 2011 9:58 PM

I got that from the getgo. Taxpayer. But the fact that you refuse to answer a couple of easy questions raises red flags about your commitment to honesty and fairness. Too much Fox News in your diet?

Learn from it, or repeat it  

Posted: June 7th, 2011 8:18 PM

There were plenty of us who KNEW that this project was dead in the water from the beginning. Blame needs to be assigned to the fools who signed off on this so that they can be removed from their decision making positions, lest they continue making the same mistakes over and over. At the very least, no one who originally signed off on this should be involved in any renegotiations.

Taxpayer  

Posted: June 7th, 2011 8:12 PM

I stand for a new hotel. Simple- no dodge. Money talks....BS walks.

OP Resident  

Posted: June 7th, 2011 8:10 PM

Taxpayer is still dodging the question. You've got to stand for something or you'll fall for anything.

Taxpayer  

Posted: June 7th, 2011 7:52 PM

I dont care what it says on their website. I am happy that they have taken the actions with their wallets to build something the Village needs. The owners of the Carleton and Write Inn have every opportunity to build a new hotel to add to their collection.

OP Resident  

Posted: June 7th, 2011 7:06 PM

Michael Nevins hits the bullseye. Let's ask if the owners of the Carleton and Write Inn how much support they've received from VOP. My guess would be "ZERO". This reminds me of how the board forked over big bucks to Pepsi so they would build a Pizza Hut on Madison St. right next to an established pizza joint. How did that work out for thwe owners of Pizza Palazzo?

Michael Nevins  

Posted: June 7th, 2011 6:48 PM

@Hyatt. Not debating that Write Inn and Carleton are 5-star hotels, but can you understand that their owners might be unwilling to invest a lot of money in their hotels when VOP is doing everything possible to put them out of business? I know it's not the deliberate intention of Board to destroy local businesses, but too often that is the consequence of their actions. I (and my MBA degree) agree with Jon's post at 5:01.

OP Resident  

Posted: June 7th, 2011 5:37 PM

Way to dodge a couple of simple questions, Taxpayer! If you are going to stand as defender-in-chief for Sertus/SilverYoung than take the challenge and offer an explanation for why they would refer to DTOP as "once-dilapidated. It's just you and Sertus/SilverYoung who find that to be a factual description of conditions in Downtown Oak Park before these liars came to our rescue. Where's the proof? Don't be a tool for a deceitful corporate interests. Give us a break or a straight answer.

Taxpayer  

Posted: June 7th, 2011 5:20 PM

I bet the hits on their site is minimal at best. Get over it. Why would they invest million$ of their own dollar$ and try to deceive potential clients??? Sorry but you maka no sense

Taxpayer  

Posted: June 7th, 2011 5:17 PM

The hotel is needed. Just becasue a developer hasn't come forward doesn't mean we dont need one. The 10's of thousands of Wright tour folks stay somewhere. I'm sure some are local folks but there is a % that stay somewhere over night. Those are the people who would be perfect candidates for the new hotel. Family, weddings, funerals, Village functions, etc.... The list is on-going. We are in a great location. How many people do we all know that have friends stay in Oak Brook or Chicago?

Op Resident  

Posted: June 7th, 2011 5:13 PM

I'll keep trying, Taxpayer. There is no plausible explanation for Setrus/SilverYoung to describe DTOP as "once-dilapidated". Despite your claim that they can say whatever they please. Wrong is worng! Would object if they described our community as gang infested or an environmental disaster. How about calling Oak Park a terrorist haven or that our main business district was crime ridden? Sertus/SilverYoung lied about conditions in Oak Park. They did so to deceive potential clients. Got it?

Jon Donohue  

Posted: June 7th, 2011 5:01 PM

@Hyatt, what business school did you attend? The Write Inn and the Carlton do need updating, but if investors thought that Oak Park could sustain another hotel and money could be made, then a hotel would be built. If really you think another hotel in Oak Park can make money, then you should put your money into the hotel. Just because you don't like something doesn't mean we need something. You seem to suffer from the same hotel delusions as the Board.

Hyatt  

Posted: June 7th, 2011 1:59 PM

@Jon, I know it seems all black and white to you, but reading your comments you obviously do not know anything about the lodging industry and Oak Park. Do me a favor, please have a close friend or family member stay in the Write Inn then come back and argue we don't need another hotel.

Taxpayer  

Posted: June 7th, 2011 1:08 PM

Not sure why Sertus would want to ruin any deal. They have all the money thus far invested. The Village has zero. I dont agree with you OP. The words are just semantics. If anything, Sertus would want to drive the point home that its a great place for retail/ commercial companies to locate. Am I missing something ? I know you just like to throw mud and blame, blame , blame.

OP Resident  

Posted: June 7th, 2011 11:09 AM

Wow, Taxpayer! When you miss the point; you really miss it. Sertus/SilverYoung are not just wrong in describing DTOP as "once-dilapidated"; they are trying to deceive potential clients. We've yet to hear from a board member or Village Hall official regarding their partners' false statement. But, they ought to be angry and embarrassed. Sertus/SilverYoung have violated the spirit of their agreement with the Village of Oak Park and should no longer be trusted. Give 'em the boot!

Taxpayer  

Posted: June 7th, 2011 12:10 AM

Must we forget about Computerland? You people with your dislike of words on the developers site. Are you kidding? They can call it whatever they want. They paid dearly for the building and land. Some may even say over paid. Hardly dilapidated prices. Wake up people.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 6th, 2011 11:44 PM

That would be the Stankus Hole. 100 Forest Place was built on that site. John is right that the property sat vacant for many years. Plywood panels were put up around the hole and the sidewalks were rubble. A real eyesore.

OP Resident  

Posted: June 6th, 2011 10:17 PM

GK and Phil. Val does not want anything from the Village. Kicking her out of her green line store was the best thing that ever happened to her. So there.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: June 6th, 2011 9:55 PM

Chris -- ask some OP Oldtimers what happened directly across the street from the proposed hotel. Before the 100 Forest Apartments were built the site, which was once a village school, sat idle for years after the old school had been razed. As I understand it, the hole had been dug for the foundation of the school buildings replacement. The Big Hole was downtown for years. One of the OP old timers will probably remember the hole's nickname.

OP Resident  

Posted: June 6th, 2011 9:16 PM

Dumb de dumb dumb, GK and Phil. You folks have Onion ambitions but stinky jokes. Why drag Val into this dopey routine? She's built her rep on knowing music from A to Z and does not deserve to be a punchline for a weak attempt at humor.

G K  

Posted: June 6th, 2011 8:23 PM

OP should front Val a cool Mil to start vending the smoking accessories at Lake Forest ... I have a contact buzz already! Can anybody say tourism?

Phil of Good Ideas  

Posted: June 6th, 2011 4:24 PM

We need a head shop in the area now.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 6th, 2011 4:17 PM

Patricia, I think the comment demonstrates that Sertus/SilverYoung are engaged in a deliberate practice to deceive potential clients. There is simply no excuse for that description to be applied to downtown Oak Park. It is time to end all business dealings with Sertus.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 6th, 2011 4:12 PM

Chris, the comment by SilverYoung describes downtown Oak Park as "once-dilapidated". That is totally false! I hope the trustees will take this in to account while deciding if they will continue their partnership with Sertus/SilverYoung. We've talked a lot recently about the need to screen potential tenants. Isn't proper and in our best interests to screen potential business partners? I've have never heard a Village President, trustee or community leader refer to DTOP as "once-dilapidated".

Pile of rubble  

Posted: June 6th, 2011 3:56 PM

How about a popular pancake restaurant and a mid-sized, fully stocked, community grocery store? .... oh wait...

Chris Goode from Oak Park  

Posted: June 6th, 2011 3:52 PM

I don't think you could have called it dilapidated before Sertus made the deal with the Village. It had a small local grocery and a popular pancake restaurant. Sure neither were brand new but they were viable functioning businesses. But the site sure is dilapidated now as a vacant lot. If the village and developers can't put something together then it will remain a vacant lot for a while. It has already been close to a year. If the buildings had remained we could have had new businesses.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: June 6th, 2011 3:22 PM

If they think that part of Oak Park is dilapidated, I hate to think of what they would say about Madison!

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: June 6th, 2011 2:58 PM

Well said Jim. The buddy relationship with developers is a one way street.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 6th, 2011 2:48 PM

Ain't that a kick in the pants. I searched Sertus and found a link to their partners, SilverYoung Capital. On their website, they tout a planned development in the "once-dilapidated Downtown Oak Park". What?! I would ask that Sertus/SilverYoung be contacted ASAP by Village Hall and told to remove that insulting comment and outright lie. Do we really want to be in business with a company that distorts the truth about our community.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 6th, 2011 2:30 PM

I don't get it! Is the Wednesday Journal really advocating that the taxpayers of Oak Park pick up all this corporation's costs associated with their failed plan? Why should we assume these risks? Is this provided for in the agreement between VOP and Sertus? The Village budget is pretty lean. What programs should be cut in order to meet this financial obligation? David Pope called the project a "Win-Win" for Oak Park. If residents wind up on the hook for the developer's expenses; we lose!

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: June 6th, 2011 2:23 PM

Oops.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: June 6th, 2011 2:19 PM

In my world, being "made whole" typically means money being exchanged in some way or form. I do not support any additional taxpayer funds supporting this developer. However, I do belive the village should work with the developer and be flexible in order to get something built on this empty lot. Hopefully that's what the editorial staff meant when they said "make whole".

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: June 6th, 2011 2:18 PM

In my world, being "made whole" typically means money being exchanged in some way or form. I do not support any additional taxpayer funds supporting this developer. However, I do belive the village should work with the developer and be flexible in order to get something built on this empty lot. Hopefully that's what the editorial staff meant when they said "make whole".

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: June 6th, 2011 2:18 PM

In my world, being "made whole" typically means money being exchanged in some way or form. I do not support any additional taxpayer funds supporting this developer. However, I do belive the village should work with the developer and be flexible in order to get something built on this empty lot. Hopefully that's what the editorial staff meant when they said "make whole".

David Barsotti  

Posted: June 6th, 2011 12:00 PM

Developers are in the business to make money and making money involves the risk of losing money. It is morally wrong for the WJ to advocate making an out-of-town developer whole when the developer was inanely unable to gage the risks of the markets, especially when many Oak Park homeowners are underwater on their mortgages. The Board and Sertus foolishly ignored the significant risks to their project in exchange for millions in taxpayer subsidies and a monument to the Board's ineptitude.

OP Resident  

Posted: June 5th, 2011 9:11 AM

10's of thousands of people come to Oak Park every year. Lets hope we can build a new hotel so that we can increase local over night tourism. Not just that. I am sure we can attract out of town travelers who might find lodging in OP more attractive than downtown. murtagh, if you dont preach, what do you consider your approach?

Facts v Fantasy  

Posted: June 5th, 2011 8:58 AM

The project was approved March 15, 2010 - deep WITHIN the real estate meltdown, not at the height of property values. The real estate meltdown started in early 2008. The VOP delusions of grandeur started long before 2008.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: June 5th, 2011 2:54 AM

WJ EDITORIAL QUOTE RE SERTUS "No one is to blame. Pointing fingers at either or both the developer or the village is just silly." I assume that the silliness is on the part of the resident, since I don't sense any of the village officials or the press are pointing fingers at themselves. The galling thing is that those who expressed opposition to the Sertus project were treated as fools by our Responsible Government. It is time for the board and WJ to do some listening and less preaching.

eba from oak park  

Posted: June 2nd, 2011 6:02 PM

Why not give the same subsidies to the other hotels in Oak Park so that they might improve their infrastructure? I really don't think the village needs more condos. I think there are over 300 currently on the market. How about inviting some other developers that might have other visions? The village seems to enjoy building huge buildings and giving incentives to huge corporations. But what about the hotels and condo owners that have real monetary stakes in the game?

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 2nd, 2011 5:54 PM

David Pope called the development a "WIN-WIN" for Oak Park. Is that still the case if Sertus cannot come up with the financing? I do agree that finger pointing will accomplish nothing but hope the trustees do not turn this over to consultant and pay out $$$ for yet another "expert" opinion. The board should actively seek input from the community.

Jon Donohue  

Posted: June 2nd, 2011 1:47 PM

If Oak Park NEEDS another hotel, then Sertus would be built. The current and future markets know that Oak Park cannot sustain another hotel. If investors believed in this project as much as Pope, et. al. do than the project would have been built. Pope, et al do not understand market economics and live in a bubble that continues to tell them to build a hotel that would not survive in Oak Park. @Hyatt, if you really want another hotel, then build it with your own money.

Hyatt  

Posted: June 1st, 2011 11:20 PM

This is too bad. You need another hotel there, period. If you doubt it, go ahead and stay at the Write Inn and post with an honest face if that's the quality of overnight lodging you want Oak Park to represent. One should have be built long ago and you've all been screwed over by the two families who own the two hotels and have resisted any development with their lives. One day you will have a new hotel, one with a flag on it and one that will succeed.

Chris Goode from Oak Park  

Posted: June 1st, 2011 4:59 PM

I can't agree more with Enuf. Buildings should not be torn down unless the construction is ready to start on what is next. Why such a rush to remove them and the tenants? Certainly the developers don't have the same sense of urgency to get the project built nor should they in this economy? It looks like someone dropped bombs at both ends of Oak Park's business district. Thank goodness the "obsolete" but much needed parking garage has been left alone.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: June 1st, 2011 2:14 PM

The reality the editorial references is that any development is subject to risk. And because of that risk, a municipality should never, ever, allow demolition of existing buildings and businesses prior to securing a developer with financing. Once again, same as happened at 1121-23 Lake St. 1125-33 Lake St. and 1131-45 Westgate, the village has cleared existing buildings and business only to be left with another gap in the downtown streetscape, resulting in loss of property and sales tax revenue.

OP Resident  

Posted: June 1st, 2011 11:57 AM

Barsotti, Rest assured. Public monies are used in development every day. Ask Mrs. Jonas or Mr Marsey or Mrs Kessen.

paul  

Posted: June 1st, 2011 10:49 AM

I think that would be a great location for a small grocery store. Caputo's Oak Park, maybe?

David Barsotti  

Posted: June 1st, 2011 8:46 AM

I have never been a fan of this development based solely on the public monies offered to support the development. It was repeatedly that this project was not financially feasible, yet the WJ and the entire Village Board wrongly claimed that they had a better understanding of the situation. Let Sertus build what they want, but not with public money. OP taxpayers have should not need to make Sertus "whole or nearly so." Sertus wants to make money and OP should not subsidize their profits.

J.oak park  

Posted: June 1st, 2011 8:08 AM

It doesn't look good: http://www.worldpropertychannel.com/us-markets/vacation-leisure-real-estate-1/us-hotel-construction-pipeline-new-hotels-in-us-lodging-economics-revpar-adr-hotel-room-rates-new-hotel-projects-4233.php According to Lodging Economics, further declines have brought hotel construction pipeline counts to a new cyclical low of 2,951 projects/354,100 rooms in Q1 2011. With 426 projects/54,530 rooms, just 14% of total pipeline projects and 15% of rooms...

OP Resident  

Posted: June 1st, 2011 12:40 AM

Please build a NEW hotel.

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