With hotel out, village chips in less for Oak Park high-rise

Village, developer figure out the particulars of changed plan

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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

While Oak Park officials expressed disappointment last week that a hotel and condos are no longer being considered at the corner of Lake and Forest, taxpayers might take a different tune. With the planned high rise now switching to apartments, village hall will be kicking in $1.5 million less toward the project, though another $10 million for a public parking garage will be coming from village coffers, if the project is ever built.

A Chicago-based developer and village hall have been talking for several years about teaming up to reinvent the northeast corner of Lake and Forest. Both sides own pieces of property there, and wanted to join them together to build a new public parking garage, and 20-story hotel and condo tower.

The corner is right down the street from a swath of Frank Lloyd Wright-designed homes, and local officials thought it was a perfect spot for a new hotel. Village hall was willing to kick in a $500,000 incentive to the developer, Sertus Capital Partners, to build the hotel, and another $1 million because the public garage would encroach on the developer's land.

But last week, the developer announced publicly that the economy wouldn't allow for the hotel there. Instead, Sertus wants to build apartments, and as such, would delete the $1.5 million from the agreement.

In an interview last week, Michael Glazier, the principal for Sertus, said the only thing Oak Park would pay for is 300 public parking spaces, to replace the aging 340-space garage on the corner. In the original agreement, that was to cost about $9.8 million.

The developer is also making use of the land under Oak Park's current public garage, which was last appraised at $3 million. In a public meeting last week, Glazier asked the village board not to charge the developer for using the piece of land, as it would make the project financially unfeasible.

According to a May 5 letter to the village, the development is using about 78 percent of the village's land. And charging the developer for the parcel would up the per-unit cost in their apartment building by $20,000.

"It would undermine the ability of the deal to get financed," Glazier said by phone last week.

Essentially, the two sides are performing a "land swap," according to Glazier, and putting both of their pieces of land into the deal. And when it's done, Sertus would own the apartment tower, while Oak Park would own its public parking spaces.

Jason Smith — the owner of The Book Table in downtown Oak Park, and a vocal opponent of the project — declined to comment last week until he saw the particulars of the new agreement. But in a public comment to a Wednesday Journal reporter last week, from the bookstore's Twitter account, he took issue with the proposed land swap.

"When you take out the $500,000 hotel incentive, but still have the $3M land incentive, there's still a lot of Village $$," The Book Table wrote.

Village Trustee Ray Johnson said the village board will be talking about its land costs, and the new proposal, when it refers the project back to the Oak Park Plan Commission in July. Nothing has been decided yet, he said, but he called a potential land swap a "win-win" for the village.

Oak Park is letting Sertus use its land to gain equity for financing, and in exchange, would get a new garage, along with increased tax revenues.

"People can say whatever they want about what the land is worth, but we're not going to sell it. It's worth something on paper, it's not worth anything in dollars, because it's not for sale," Johnson said.

Glazier said that Sertus is now working to turn in an amended plan, which they hope to submit to the village in the next few weeks. Along with the deleted incentives, there are a couple of other changes. With the hotel out, Sertus no longer plans to build a lounge on the top floor. Village documents said last week that the developer might build 330 parking spaces, but Glazier said they're still figuring exactly how many spaces their 264-unit apartment building and retail space will need.

The design of the development is expected to stay relatively the same, though Glazier said they're switching architects, from Epstein, to Gensler, which designed the Block 37 development in downtown Chicago. He declined to say why they're changing architects.

Sertus originally proposed to build apartments on the site, before the village enticed them to go hotel. Glazier called it a "fruitless endeavor" to speculate where things might have been if they originally stuck with apartments.

"Realistically, nobody knows. It's impossible to determine," Glazier said.

Oak Parker David Barsotti, another opponent of the project, thinks Sertus was too optimistic the first time around with its projections, and worries that it will be more of the same when they switch to apartments. He thinks the village should scrap the whole thing and go "back to square one."

"It's all pie-in-the-sky numbers. It's always best-case scenarios," he said. "What happens if those apartments sit empty? What happens if he only gets 50 percent occupancy? What happens if the retail never takes off? What happens if parking proves to be insufficient?"

Glazier said he is currently asking a consultant, Tracy Cross & Associates, to assess the apartment market in the Oak Park area. But he thinks there is demand for rental housing.

"Housing is going through a big change in the United States. There will still always be ownership, but I think people are starting to look at renting from a different light," Glazier said.

Reader Comments

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Village Inn  

Posted: September 15th, 2011 4:46 PM

Great another useless project. http://www.villageinncoupons.org

S. Oak Park  

Posted: July 18th, 2011 4:39 PM

I am the only one who is tired of the digs that are directed towards John Murtagh? It's the same person posting using a variety of screen names. There's no attempt to engage with John or others in a discussion. Just blathering and name calling. Whether posing as "Taxpayer", "OP Resident", "The Truth Hurts", "Cheerleader", etc.,. is simply unable or unwilling to state a position and be prepared to explain it in detail. I think we are dealing with a non-resident employed by the Village.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: July 18th, 2011 3:14 PM

How could this possibly have gone off the rails? I saw the developer's "artist rendering" and, if you squinted, it almost seemed real.


Posted: July 18th, 2011 2:49 PM

Not sure you could afford it

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: July 18th, 2011 2:35 PM

Does anyone know the Sertus Proposal cost per residential unit on an all in basis? The cost per residential unit on the Madison Housing Project is nearly $300,000 per unit if the total build cost is $15m and nearly $400,000 per unit if the cost is $20m. The build cost numbers above are the best estimates we could get from the village or Interfaith. My sense is that this comparison will give some insight on subsidy values.

john murtagh from oak park il  

Posted: July 18th, 2011 2:20 PM

For the record Oncorhynchus Mykiss is a rainbow trout.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: July 18th, 2011 2:05 PM

Enuf is Enuf -- thank you for the quantitative information you have added to the insightful comments. Your contribution to the OP dialog has been outstanding.


Posted: July 12th, 2011 2:40 PM

Enuf must be out of power. Thats the longest he's gone without responding.

Oncorhynchus Mykiss  

Posted: July 11th, 2011 6:25 PM

Resident is not even a resident of Oak Park. Just an employee of the Village.


Posted: July 11th, 2011 5:51 PM

Whats the subsidy part only in terms of per sq footage ?

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: July 11th, 2011 2:05 PM

Not fuzzy math, but Sertus-provided math. If it seems fuzzy, seek clarification from Sertus. As per the initial 2009 RDA (Exhibit C), the village was subsidizing Sertus w/ a land write-down of $4.25M (for a hotel). As per a Sertus letter to the village (May 3, 2011), they want to retain the land write-down subsidy for 264 rental apts. (w/o hotel), which they equate to $20,000 unit. As per to Sertus (board meeting June 27, 2011), the apts. would be priced the same as Whiteco apts. ($2.20 avg/sf).


Posted: July 11th, 2011 12:07 PM

But how much is the subsidy and how can you tie it into the total sqft $ amount? Fuzzy math

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: July 11th, 2011 11:32 AM

Sertus is requiring a village subsidy to develop luxury apts. at $2.25/sf. Their avg. 2BR/2BA unit is 1,118SF or $2,515/mo., which requires a min. gross income of $90,558. The median OP household income (U.S. Census 2005-09) is $72,435. Therefore, the village is subsiding new households with property tax dollars from relatively lower income existing households. This type of policy, known as trickle-down economics, appropriates money for top income earners in hopes it will trickle down to bottom.

S. Oak Park  

Posted: July 10th, 2011 9:58 PM

Close but no cigar, Jon. David Pope is not posting as Resident, OP Resident, The Truth Hurts, etc.,. All the comments are being submitted by an individual employed by the Village of Oak Park who works in the Village Manager's office. Word is this character doesn't even live in Oak Park which makes the whole charade even more bizarre.

Jon Donohue  

Posted: July 10th, 2011 9:23 PM

@Resident, um, I mean @David Pope (at least that is who you sound like), get off the band wagon of "build it" because they cannot. The banks won't give Sertus the money to build it. In fact, the bank has foreclosed on his DesPlaines project and Sertus is delinquent on one of the mortgages for Lake and Forest. You should fork up your money, not the taxpayer's money, if you want them to build it, because the financial community did not want it built.


Posted: July 10th, 2011 8:55 PM

For what Sertus paid for that property, I cant imagine anything less than wonderful.

S from Oak Park  

Posted: July 10th, 2011 6:38 PM

@resident-using that logic, wouldn't the corollary also be true? Build a place with minimal amenities for poor people, no one will want to be seen there, only low level retail (or none) will want to be in the building, it will not be a good place to shop and few taxes will be paid.

j.oak park  

Posted: July 10th, 2011 5:35 PM

the average income in oak park is $70,000 and river forest $107,000, from city data http://www.city-data.com/city/Oak-Park-Illinois.html... just saying 200 new apartments is not going to move the needle, much.


Posted: July 10th, 2011 2:08 PM

If you build a building for people with money, they will spend money locally. If you build a pretty building with nice amenities, people will want to move there be seen. Top retailers will want to move into the commercial space. All this equates to more tax revenue for our Village and a great place for people to live and shop. I'd say thats a WIN WIN WIN WIN WIN WIN ! Build It!

epic lulz  

Posted: July 9th, 2011 6:43 PM

@Resident: STFU. That is all.


Posted: July 9th, 2011 10:21 AM

Nice to see the "bashing" calming down. Continue.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: July 9th, 2011 7:57 AM

Ross Perot called trickle-down economics 'political voodoo'.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: July 9th, 2011 7:55 AM

Ironic that such a liberal Democratic community as Oak Park is subsidizing luxury rental apts. in the hopes that upper income tenants spend their wealth in downtown Oak Park, which is essentially a policy based on trickle-down Reaganonomics. Economist John Kenneth Galbraith referred to trickle-down economics as 'horse and sparrow theory' ... if you feed the horse enough oats, some will pass through to the road for the sparrows. Ross Perot called trickle-down economics 'politica

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: July 8th, 2011 9:43 PM

I have no problem with Sertus seeking a consultant to do research on the apartment market in OP. The issue will be who the consultant asks about the conditions and what data source is used. Oak Park has an unusually high amount of bankers, realtors, apartment management companies, etc. They have huge knowledge but are rarely asked to participate in public discussions, hearings, etc. Local talent is frequently ignored while cookie cutter developers and consultants are treated as bible.

Editor from Oak Park  

Posted: July 8th, 2011 5:41 PM

Quick deals based on fast revenue will be a loss. Problem with Glazier is he currently is asking a consultant to assess the apartment market in the Oak Park area. Lots of money being spent for someone who is just thinking, but it's alright if the person knows someone else will be the looser? Think about it. Housing is going through a big change in the United States? Glazier thinks people are starting to look at renting from a different light?

Craig Chesney from Oak Park  

Posted: July 8th, 2011 4:57 PM

J. Oak Park, thanks for the high compliment. I have been frustrated like everyone with high taxes etc, and I am trying to get informed about decisions that have been made, specifically those that pertain to developments. I would have to say that I wouldn't have made all of the same decisions Trustee Johnson has made, but don't sell him short. Love 'em or hate 'em, he is a quality individual, that is working his butt off for the Village.


Posted: July 8th, 2011 4:56 PM

Pie in the sky is better than du du in the soil! Build it. For all those that said Sertus ALSO dropped the ball and didnt plant grass- Wrong. Plenty O grass there.

j.oak park  

Posted: July 8th, 2011 4:27 PM

@Craig Chesney, thank you for your detailed reading and repeated replies and posting of the document link. I really like it when comments are backed by a link or data related to the comment(s). I don't know you, but think that you are way more reliable than Ray J. Thanks as always to Jim and John, and also Enuf and Epic.

Craig Chesney from Oak Park  

Posted: July 8th, 2011 4:09 PM

Jim, John and Enuf. I realize the project has changed and I specifically said that the project information will be redone. Enuf, to clarify, these are Village numbers, not mine. I appreciate you vetting the numbers as you see them. People had been asking specific questions about ownership, break evens, tax receipts etc, I was just trying to point people to Village information as a starting point for dicussion.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: July 8th, 2011 2:37 PM

Trustee Ray Johnson may be able to provide the actual numbers. It would be interesting to learn if revenue projections for the DTOP TIF district were overly optimistic and never actually reached those expectations. Jon Donahue points out that the Forest/Lake projections have to be recalculated since there won't be a hotel/condo developed on the site. Has a revised analysis been prepared?

Jon Donohue  

Posted: July 8th, 2011 12:34 PM

@CChesney, the information that you cited is outdated for the projections are based on the hotel, condo, and retail. Sertus is now planning retail and apt. only. The projections need to be recalculated. Also, if you have looked at prior TIF analysis performed on projects you would quickly learn how they never matched reality. The projected revenue from the TIF is always overly optimistic and has yet to materialize. The numbers are "pie-in-the-sky" and do not match reality in any market.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: July 8th, 2011 10:22 AM

@CChesney: please be careful with using Sertus provided property tax projections. Based on 200 apts., retail and no hotel, my property tax estimate for the entire project is about $750,000/YR, based on 2009 property taxes paid by nearby comparable high-rise, high-end rental bldgs. Also, the village only receives about 13% of total property taxes, so their share would be about $98,000/YR From that, you need to deduct previously paid taxes for this site ($135,000) and the village share ($17,550).


Posted: July 7th, 2011 9:22 PM

Angry is correct. Birds that fly aimlessly. Armchair cheerleader? There's a difference between blindly supporting something for no reason(cheerleader) and defending the actions of a responsible, good mannered good intentioned board who I believe in. The BS that is thrown around here is pathetic and untrue. Reality is what will set you free.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 8:30 PM

Nicely played, Angry Birds.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 6:49 PM

I know some local geologist will show up to vouch for Ray Johnson on the his post today, but I find his quote worth questioning. Ray commented om this string that Chicago uses more underground parking than Oak Park because " they (Chicago) have more land area." Doesn't Oak Park and Chicago have an equal amount of land area when it comes to underground parking? I mean; doesn;t OP and Chi-town have an equal amount of land below and sky above?

Angry Birds  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 6:39 PM

And resident/the truth hurts/op/op rez/facebook verified, is an Armchair Cheerleader.


Posted: July 7th, 2011 6:25 PM

You learned who the blamers are in this community. Constant bickering gets old real fast. If for once, the group I mentioned just chimed in to make a observation that didnt include blaming the VOP or the Board for something they did or didnt due would be a start. You all seem like arm chair quarterbacks with nothing better to do.

Craig Chesney from Oak Park  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 6:09 PM

The village is expecting and additional 2.5 mil in annual tax revenues from the project. TIF analysis was done in June of 2009. http://www.oak-park.us/public/pdfs/Planning/Lake-Forest/06.29.09_Updated_TIF_analysis.pdf This confirms about a 7yr break even for the parking lot 10.8 mil and land 3.5 mil. This is how I read it. This analysis will be redone with newer info. Again, there is a ton of info under the Lake/Forest development tab on Village Website.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 5:28 PM

Thanks, Craig. Do you know how long it should take for the Village to recoup the $10 million investment? I hope Oak Park does not consider privatizing the garage. It's tough to attract shoppers when parking rates are too high.

Craig Chesney from Oak Park  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 5:16 PM

Jim Coughlin - you asked a few questions that went unanswered. The cost of the proposed parking spots are capped at $28,800 and have a 100 year life. Underground spots would cost 36-40k without a much longer life.

Craig Chesney from Oak Park  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 5:05 PM

@J.OakPark - the lot will be owned by the Village. It is my understanding the village will give money for the parking garage. The land will be given to participate in the residential/commercial component of the deal. You should go to Oak-park.us, under departments, under planning and development. Click on the Lake and forest button. There summaries of the financial, and TIF district projections, a letter from OPDC summarizing the nuances of the project.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 4:30 PM

And what have we learned from you, Resident? Except for the fact you employ an endless variety of dubs and overuse the Caps Lock key and the FDR quote; it's still a boring rant. I cannot recall an single example of you or any of your aliases engaging in an open discussion of an issue. Just blatherings and insults. No style, substance or humor. You want to bully and intimidate but the act has become stale. Your opinion is not respected or requested. Always a swing and a miss. You're out!

Another Resident  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 4:27 PM

@Resident, you would not qualify for a commission either for you post here regularly. The commissions do need open minded people who look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of projects. Commissioners should not believe everything that is being presented by developers when what is presented is not based in facts.


Posted: July 7th, 2011 4:10 PM

If it happened to be anybody that post on here regularly I WOULDNT appoint them either. The Village need open minded folks, not closed minded blamers. Progress happens when you move forward not backward. Coughlin, murtagh, o'shea, enuf, marsey, les, and barsotti dont qualify in my book.

Another Resident  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 4:04 PM

@Resident, All commissioners are appointed by David Pope and serve at his request (take a look at the application). Pope has not and will not appoint anyone that challenges his views. You might recall how long it took to get the Sertus development to the Plan Commission the first time. There were two vacancies and Pope was busy staking the commission so that the project would be approved. Say what you want Resident, but the facts contradict your statements.


Posted: July 7th, 2011 3:55 PM

Classic caughlin. "We learn from Epic, John Murtagh, Enuf" Now there is a funny statement. What exactly do you learn. How awful everything is and that this Village is not transparent and that the Village is in the pockets of developers, Etc...????? All I hear from those people are Bitch, Bitch, Bitch. If they really wanted to contribute, they would join a commission and participate on behalf of the Village- Not on some comment section of a local newspaper!

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 3:29 PM

Spare me your snide comments, Resident. I find it interesting that Trustee Johnson was willing to answer my questions and engage in the discussion. That's never been the case with you! The only "posts" that "agree" with you are offered under the various dubs you use on this forum. It's fair and appropriate for members of the community to ask questions. Your non-stop cheerleading diminishes the open exchange of ideas and information. We learn from Epic, John Murtagh, Enuf and others. You add zip!

Jon Donohue  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 3:27 PM

Tucker and Salzman were the only two trustees to asked moderately difficult questions to Glazier. Everyone else was giving Glazier excuses on why his development failed, blaming everyone but themselves or Sertus for the failure. The Board arrogantly ignored the opposition to this project saying that the economics of the project are sound. It is now obvious that Pope, Johnson, and Lueck are the ones ignorant in economics. They are just good at spinning and misrepresenting the facts.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 3:20 PM

@epicLulz: upon further review, it gets worse. As per the Redevelopment Agreement, within 120 days of board approval of the project in March 2010, Sertus was required to "demolish the existing buildings on the property" (accomplished) and "plant grass or create a surface parking lot" (still waiting). Not only did the village require demolition prior to financing being in place, it waived payment of demolition fees until payment of building permit fees. No new building, no demolition permit fees.


Posted: July 7th, 2011 3:19 PM

Its so nice to see coughlin come to his senses. If Ray Johnson didnt respond you would still have your biased attitude against this project and the Village. In reality, nothing changed except for some posts on a comment board. Do you see why this looks bad and all of your criticisms seem unjustified. What you really want is dialogue with the Trustees. They are all out in the community and also have email addresses.

J.oak park  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 3:07 PM

will the new parking garage be owned by Sertus and the building? if VOP sells the land and give 10 mil(maybe less now) to build the garage...can they do or charge whatever they want? Has the village asked for assurance that the parking rates will remain equal to all village owned lots?

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 2:54 PM

Enclosed parking garage requires sprinkler & ventilation system, at significant initial costs. The energy required to run the ventilation system is a considerable operating cost. While enclosed garages provide some protection against exposure from the elements, it faces the same deterioration and maintenance concerns from street deicing salts brought in by vehicles, which cause chloride-induced corrosion. Relative to open-air garages, enclosed garages are higher in initial and operating costs.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 2:50 PM

We're getting a lot of good information from Trustee Johnson regarding the parking garage. Thanks again to him for participating in the discussion. Maintenance costs are going to be reduced and the structure should be an important and longlasting asset to the community. That's a plus! Now we just need Sertus to deliver on their promises and we can look forward to the groundbreaking ceremonies. I agree the process was not as thorough and open as some would have liked but it is time to move on.

epic lulz  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 2:29 PM

"The VOP had nothing to do with the demolition of the businesses at Lake/Forest." This is simply incorrect. In fact, VOP forced Sertus to demolish the property ahead of schedule, and before project financing was complete.

Ray Johnson from Oak Park  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 2:14 PM

@ Mr. Coughlin: I'm not sure its widely understood, but the proposed parking structure at Lake/Forest would be a fully enclosed and ventilated parking structure, so exposure to the elements will be extremely limited. This substantially reduces maintanance costs, although the initial cost/per/space is higher.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 2:10 PM

Note to Enuf: Thanks for your input. The discussion has produce some interesting details and explains why VOP is kind of locked into this deal with Sertus. I do wish more restraint had been shown in negotiating with this developer. We now seem to be over a barrel. The reports of trouble with Sertus in other communities is alarming and needs to be addressed.

Facebook Verified  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 1:47 PM

Note to Enuf: This is 2011.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 1:45 PM

Thanks to Trustee Johnson for adding to the discussion. It's a real plus when elected officials offer their insights and opinions. I wish more would follow his example. Perhaps an expert can address the actual costs of a parking garage structure vs an underground facility. It would seem that not being exposed to the elements would result in lowing overall maintenance costs and a much longer life. The garage at the Main library is small but has none of the problems like our other public garages.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 1:43 PM

@JCoughlin: Nov. 2005: on behalf of Sertus, Acosta, Kruse & Zemenides, LLC (law firm specializing in TIFs) sent a letter to Pope proposing the current project, based on $3.6M of TIF funds. June 2008: village approved a Term Sheet w/ Lake St. Investors (Sertus), whose terms were to be incorporated into a fully executed Redevelopment Agreement. Feb. 2009: Invitation for Alternate Proposals issued by the village. June 2009: Redevelopment Agreement signed by village w/ Lake St. Investors (Sertus).


Posted: July 7th, 2011 1:25 PM

murtagh, I think you are a day late and a dollar short. That has happened already and plan #2 is already moving forward. Where have you been?

john murtagh from oak park   

Posted: July 7th, 2011 1:16 PM

In business the process is called "a clean sheet of paper." That is when a project gets so far off course that you have project brainstorm without dwelling on previous events that lead to the failure. "A clean sheet of paper" does not automatically throw out all previous plans or decisions. They consider them in the light of a new plan, a new project. No project has a greater need for "a clean sheet of paper" that Lake/Forest. The logical place to begin "a clean sheet is the Plan Commission.

Ray Johnson from Oak Park  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 1:08 PM

@ Mr. Coughlin: My recollection is that the owner of the property to the West of the garage came to us. I do not believe the RDA was approved until after the RFP time frame had lapsed. Although, I don't argue with your premise that the we likely didn't get interest because the RFP would have been only for the VOP owned property, an oddly configured and relatively small lot without the privately owned property to the West. Re: Chicago underground parking -- they have more land area.

Clueless as enuf  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 12:58 PM

"intended service life of 50 years" Love it. It is falling apart and in need of millions of dollars in repairs. Rebuild it! This too will pass and they will find something else to bicker about. Carry on.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 12:53 PM

@JCoughlin: a concrete parking garage has an intended service life of 50 years, if maintained. So why did the village claim the L/F Garage needed to be replaced in 2007, just 32 years after being built? Due to deferred maintenance, the L/F Garage experienced accelerated deterioration from chloride-induced corrosion (deicing salts). Instead of corrective repair in 2002 to extend service life for 15 years, the village decided to prematurely replace the garage to accommodate new development.


Posted: July 7th, 2011 12:50 PM

Underground parking has been talked about in OP for a while but never executed. Even at Village hall with the parking space problems , Trustee Gus Kostopoulos had proposed underground parking and putting green space on top. RIP Gus.

Clueless as enuf  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 12:48 PM

If Sertus owns the land and the only smart way to develop or rebuild the garage is to partner with the corner developer then YES who ever owns those rights is the preferred developer. The Village can not forcefully make Sertus sell the property. They bought it on the open market. Even after Sertus bought the building, the Village looked into rebuilding garage by itself. It didnt make any sense.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 11:58 AM

One last question, Trustee Johnson. Thanks again for taking the time to participate in this discussion and providing answers and information. Is it accurate to state that Sertus first approached VOP with this proposed development and an agreement was actually in place prior to the issuance of the RFP? That would seemed to have limited VOP options and may have resulted in the current notion that it's now the Sertus deal or bust.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 11:38 AM

Thanks for the info,Trustee Johnson. Chicago has underground garages that can hold many cars. More than VOP needs demand. I guess we have to consider the costs per parking space but over the long haul is there a significant difference in maintenance expenses for these types of structures compared to above ground buildings? The useful life of VOP garages is reportedly about 50 years. Would an underground facility last longer and allow the land above it to be used for more productive purposes?

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 11:26 AM

The N/E corner of Lake and Forest is already the new Stankus Hole and the Plan Commission and Board created it. It will be a hole until money is found by Sertus. Are Senior Luxury Apts. the answer? Senior Luxury Apts. and Condos have been the featured housing alternative for many communities (LaGrange, Elmhurst, Chicago, etc.) for fifteen years. Is that market still wide open? Do Senior Luxury Apts fit the village's marketing plan for downtown? Will senior Luxury Apts work in 2025? Many Q's.

Ray Johnson from Oak Park  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 11:04 AM

@ Mr. Coughlin: Underground parking is extremely expensive to build and limits the # of spaces we could achieve because the most likely scenario is simply one level of parking. An above ground garage is much less expensive and more conducive to multiple levels = ergo more spaces. Currently, we have a stand alone garage which generates no property or sales tax -- we can/must change that. Of special note -- this developer is proposing paying for their own private parking.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 10:43 AM

Correction: Glazier's statement was as follows (correction in CAPS); "We do not want to be the next Stankus Hole that happened in Oak Park. We had our reservations about tearing down the old improvements, but we understood and respected THE DESIRE of the community to see those improvements taken down."

Clueless as enuf  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 10:40 AM

Last time I checked Sertus paid DEARLY for that property and hasnt made anything on their investment thus far. As far from an inside job as I can think of. Stop your "false speculation" and keep to facts.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 10:39 AM

@RJohnson: At the village board meeting on June 27, Michael Glazier of Sertus stated;"We do not want to be the next Stankus Hole that happened in Oak Park. We had our reservations about tearing down the old improvements, but we understood and respected the community to see those improvements taken down." In addition, the village issued the demolition permits to proceed with razing of the site. Standard practice is to deny demolition permits until evidence of guaranteed financing is submitted.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 10:39 AM

Thanks, Trustee Johnson. I was asking about the VOP-owned land where the parking garage currently stands. As I understand your response, that parcel is not for sale and therefore it is not worth anything in dollars. VOP is prepared to build a parking garage at the location and nothing else. I wonder if an underground structure would be feasible and we could then allow the developer to purchase the land itself to help defray our contruction costs?

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 10:21 AM

@JCoughlin: because developers like Sertus troll the suburban waters for municipalities with TIF districts and little development expertise, and Oak Park is ripe for the pickings. Sertus came knocking on the village door in 2005, and from behind closed doors, emerged a term sheet agreement in June 2008. Then, and only then, did the village issue a RFP in Feb. 2009, but any legitimate developer knew it was already a done deal w/ Sertus. Same story line as the Whiteco redevelopment project.

Ray Johnson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 10:18 AM

@ Mr. Coughlin and others: The VOP had nothing to do with the demolition of the businesses at Lake/Forest, as we have never had, nor do we have now, an ownership stake in the property at that immediate corner. The VOP owns the parking garage and its my view that its in our interest to work with the owner of the property to the West of said garage. The ultimate goal is to replace the garage and increase its revenue generating opportunity -- with tax paying uses above and around it.

Ray Johnson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 10:13 AM

@ Enuf: As former liaison to the PC, I know the professional background of each PC member and it is as follows: Two architects, a transportation/land-use planner - who happens to be the Chair, a small business operator, a federal government employee, a business marketing consultant, and an attorney. The fact is, I don't agree that someone from the RE profession should be precluded from becoming a member, but at this time there isn't anyone on the commission from that industry.

Clueless has enuf  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 10:10 AM

Gee Enuf, You say Pope, Lueck and Johnson all emerged from the Plan commission. They were ALL working in Real Estate ? - NOT. Back to more false conspiracy theories again. Opinion(s) are one thing, but putting out false, misleading and untrue info is another. Stop the Madness.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 9:39 AM

@JMurtaugh: the Plan Commission has been seeded with a majority of pro-development members, culled from the local real estate industry. For the past 10 years, I have monitored the Plan Commission membership, and learned it has been populated with those affiliated with local real estate interests bereft of planning expertise, while at the same time, architects and planners have applied and been rejected. Not surprisingly, Pope, Johnson and Lueck have all emerged from the Plan Commission.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 9:25 AM

@JCoughlin: by razing the site, Pope & Johnson have painted themselves in a corner of no return. The lesson from the 1989 Block 37 debacle in Chicago was that a municipality should never allow a site to be razed without evidence of guaranteed financing from the developer. Since Sertus razed the site in 2009 (w/o financial commitments), the village cannot return to a pre-existing baseline scenario, leaving them little option but to remain partnered with Sertus, albeit this time with no leverage.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: July 6th, 2011 11:55 PM

Why Sertus,John? Do you know how the Village got hooked up this developer? Did they just come knocking on the door at Village Hall or make their proposal in response to VOP call? Did the Plan Commission have other options for this site to consider? I guess I'm ask for a history lesson and hope you're able to provide some background. Have we had dealings in the past with Sertus or any of the key players? We seem to be stuck with them now and I'm not sure why.


Posted: July 6th, 2011 11:51 PM

Mr Happy strikes again. Or should I say Mr. Conspiracy and Fraud strikes again. Of course John, the Village is Evil and we shouldn't have commissions. They really dont play any integral part in our process.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: July 6th, 2011 11:45 PM

Why does the village waste its time on commissions when board members openly direct the commissions of the outcome the board desires in advance. Pope Johnson's win/win statement has as much credibility as the previous win/win statement made by Pope Pope. Our board micro-managed the Plan Commission during the Madison Housing Proposal and has started the Sertus process with stated biases and minimal objectivity.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: July 6th, 2011 11:40 PM

I don't understand Trustee Johnson's position that the land is "not for sale". Why not? Does this mean that it's Sertus or bust? Has there been any effort to attract other potential developers? Johnson champions President Pope's position that the project is a "win-win" for Oak Park but that statement was made when they thought a hotel was going to be built. Now there seems to be a rush to get something/anything going on this site. Is it simply to late in the game to consider other options?

epic lulz  

Posted: July 6th, 2011 9:48 PM

"the Village needs to contribute land to make this economically feasible" Then Sertus should sell the property to someone with the skills to successfully develop it without government handouts.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: July 6th, 2011 9:28 PM

@CChesney: I have previously referenced the Sertus letter in other posts. Sertus is playing village officials for the novices they are in this development chess game. Since the village insisted on vacating the site of buildings and businesses, the board has no other options at this point. Pope admitted as much, by asking "if not this project, then what?" Sertus is now requiring the same 2009 village $4.25M subsidy and height variances for a project that no longer includes a hotel. Checkmate.

Craig Chesney from Oak Park  

Posted: July 6th, 2011 6:46 PM

@Enuf - the Village needs to contribute land to make this economically feasible according to Sertus. The land is being given in order for the Village to gain increased tax revenue(See letter attached to agenda - http://www.oak-park.us/public/pdfs/2011 Board Agendas/06.27.11_special_meeting_agenda.pdf) Sertus also highlights the fact that construction costs have dropped,and the Village will benefit from this, ie lower price for garage.


Posted: July 6th, 2011 5:28 PM

Since the Village doesnt run Ridgeland Commons,not sure if TIF dollars could be used. Not sure it is in the TIF district. The Village has nothing to do with the Cook County assessors office lowering the assessments.

Dave from Oak Park  

Posted: July 6th, 2011 4:53 PM

VMA, stop being amateur real estate developers. Stop the subsidies. Stop the TIFF. Whatever the land is worth for whatever purpose, even if it's a strip of shops, let the market determine that. What will it take for you to understand taxpayers are sick of this continual screw up? What VMA-micromanaged development has worked? Take a cue from Jason at the Book Stall, a true business success in Oak Park. Or is that too honest, too practical? VMA, why can't you learn from your mistakes?

OP Rez  

Posted: July 6th, 2011 4:12 PM

This seems like a silly use of village resources. I never have problems parking downtown, and adding $9MM for more parking seems silly at this time. Why not allocate that to a renovation at Ridgeland Commons? That place is an embarassment to the village...

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: July 6th, 2011 3:54 PM

@TSmith: at the May 9 board mtg., Pope stated the village no longer writes checks to developers. Also, Sertus has successfully appealed the assessed value of the property for the past 3 years, lowering property taxes by 60%. As a result, the village has lost about $250K in property tax revenue, and will continue to lose about $82K/year as the site remains fallow. Also, sale taxes have been lost from 7 pre-existing businesses, and the village has expended attorney & consultants fees & staff time.

Tom Smith  

Posted: July 6th, 2011 3:24 PM

Sertus went into foreclosure in his Des Plaines project. Plus, Sertus seems to have angered many contractors based on the numerous liens placed against the Des Plaines project. Also, Sertus has successfully appealed their property taxes ever year and was able to take a senior exemption on one of the properties in 2009. I thought Pope was on record for not wanting to dole out blank taxpayer checks to these types of developers.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: July 6th, 2011 3:11 PM

As per the 2009 Redevelopment Agreement (sec. 6.03), "the Village shall convey the Property to the Developer for One Dollar, recognizing that but for the contribution of the Property to the development, construction of the Hotel Parcel would not be viable." This land write-down / hotel subsidy is stated as $4.25M (Exhibit C). Now that the hotel has been eliminated, why is the village still providing a land write-down / hotel subsidy? Why is the village board giving away a public asset?

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: July 6th, 2011 2:40 PM

It seems the village board is again putting the cart before the horse in agreeing to restart the planned development process with a developer who has not yet completed a housing study to validate their proposed 200 high-end apt. rentals, and has no financial resources. Especially with the same developer who has yet to make required improvements to the vacant site in terms of planting grass or creating a surface parking lot.

Marty J. Stempniak from Wednesday Journal  

Posted: July 6th, 2011 2:17 PM

Fixed it, FG. Thanks for catching that.


Posted: July 6th, 2011 1:56 PM

Gensler, not Genster.


Posted: July 6th, 2011 11:52 AM

@ Paul, The Village will have what they have now- but new and improved- A parking structure. The project is 90 % Developer monies.

epic lulz  

Posted: July 6th, 2011 10:22 AM

"an update on all the other vacant/undeveloped land in the village." Speaking of which, how about the WJ find out what's going on with the languishing project at Home and South Blvd and what the Village is doing about it? I know that if I had left an uncompleted structure on my property for several years, I'd have a heap of fines to contend with, but then I'm just a regular Joe, not a well-connected developer.

epic lulz  

Posted: July 6th, 2011 10:14 AM

Sertus is hiring the Block 37 architect? That does not bode well for the project ever getting completed.

paul clark  

Posted: July 6th, 2011 9:31 AM

To OP -- it's one thing for a private developer to take a risk with its own money. It's another thing when the developer is depending on the village, i.e., all village property tax payers, local residents, etc., to share in that risk. I think any story about this Lake/Forest development should include an update on the return on investment of the Whiteco property on Harlem as well as an update on all the other vacant/undeveloped land in the village.


Posted: July 6th, 2011 7:21 AM

The key phrase is at the end of the first paragraph, "... if the project is ever built."


Posted: July 6th, 2011 5:13 AM

Mr. Barsotti Said "It's all pie-in-the-sky numbers. It's always best-case scenarios. What happens if those apartments sit empty? What happens if he only gets 50 percent occupancy? What happens if the retail never takes off? What happens if parking proves to be insufficient?" Thats developing 101. There is risk involved. To move forward you must take steps. If you are afraid, you shouldnt be in the game.

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