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By Anna Lothson
The five-story Oak Leaves building in downtown Oak Park will go up for auction on Sept. 10.
With a starting bid of $800,000, the 1920s-era building, located at 1140 Lake St., offers 64,590 square feet of office/retail space. The property was recently listed on Auction.com by Foresite Realty. The auction runs until Sept. 12. Property tours will be held on Aug. 27 and Sept. 5 from 9 a.m. to noon for interested parties.
The Oak Leaves building, as it's still commonly known, is a mix of first-floor retail with office space on the upper floors. Penzey's Spices and Sprint are the two current retail tenants, though Sprint may be leaving soon as its lease expires.
David King, a local commercial real estate leasing agent, said he thinks the bidding process will be competitive, but it's hard to predict what type of buyer might be interested.
"The purchaser [will be] someone who has done this before," he said. "This is not a beginner's investment."
Either way, he said, getting the building sold and new tenants settled in will benefit all of downtown Oak Park.
Along with the structure comes a wealth of history, albeit not all positive.
The building went into foreclosure under former owner Seymour Taxman in 2010 after a $4.8 million mortgage was taken out to purchase the building five years prior. Payments weren't made on the building and the property fell into the hands of the bank. Taxman, who has a long history of commercial development in both Oak Park and River Forest, initially purchased the building for $5.75 million. Taxman told Wednesday Journal, in Sept. 2010, the purchase was a good investment since the building was largely occupied.
A majority of the space, however, is now vacant. This includes the roughly 10,000 square feet of windowless ground floor office space in which Pioneer Press housed several of its newspapers prior to downsizing.
"The building was operating fairly well up until the Oak Leaves terminated their lease early under the bankruptcy of the Sun-Times,"
Taxman told the Journal in 2010. "The termination of that lease was the turning point, negatively, on that building."
Outgoing Downtown Oak Park Executive Director Pat Zubak said hearing the news of the building sale reminded her of the challenges commercial districts face.
"My overwhelming reaction is that it's very sad for such a prominent building in downtown to get to a point [of being] put up for auction," she said.
Better times may be ahead for the building, though, as a new owner could mean new opportunities in Oak Park. Although she said there's an advantage to having the building locally owned, the possibility of having an outside buyer isn't inherently negative.
"It's just a beautiful building and an important part of downtown," Zubak said. "I hope whoever gets the building at auction will take care of it."