Political failure on Harrison

Opinion: Editorials

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Taking a hard look at the performance of its own Building and Property Standards Department in the wake of a building façade crumbling on Harrison Street is the proper step from village hall. The Building Codes Advisory Commission met last week, and will meet again this week, to consider next steps in the overdue investigation of the commercial property at Harrison and Lombard. The building is one of several properties owned for decades, and now in foreclosure along the main drag of the Arts District, by the Kleronomos family of River Forest.

This is also the moment to note that, while we may or may not find that the village's property inspectors have been lax, we can be certain that this dismal situation represents a total political failure by our elected officials going back decades.

Village officials have lacked the political moxie to effectively deal with this derelict landlord since at least the mid-1980s. That's how long key properties on Harrison have sat vacant, their plate glass reflecting back failure and disdain for the sincere efforts of so many to build an arts community out of a once-vital commercial district that Chris Kleronomos watched evaporate.

Spaces sitting empty and deteriorating for years. Properties on the brink of being sold for back taxes year after year until an 11th-hour payment was made by the owner. Spectacularly nutty and inappropriate redevelopment plans put forward by Kleronomos that called for leveling whole swaths of buildings and replacing them with hotels and convention facilities.

And always the low-key hostility from the Kleronomos family toward whatever timid actions the village government considered.

We get the notion of private ownership. But owning property in Oak Park, where homeowners feel harassed over a fallen gutter or a leaning fence, comes with responsibility and consequences — unless you are Chris Kleronomos.

So please hold the building department accountable. It seems clear its efforts were inadequate. But first, point the finger at a generation of elected officials who abrogated their duty to take appropriate action.

Reader Comments

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Jim Coughlin  

Posted: August 29th, 2011 8:16 PM

Typical. Shmypical. You're the bully of the board. Who are you are pretending to be today? How about using just one dub and sticking to it? I asked a legit question that Mr. Bartels thought deserved a response. Your only input to the discussion consists of just another goofy rant directed at me. Get lost! There was nothing sinister implied on my part. I thought someone in the VMA might have been aware of the problems Village Hall was having with Mr. Kleronomos and thought to steer clear of him.

paul from oak park  

Posted: August 29th, 2011 5:06 PM

I'd personally only be too happy to see the rent receipts and recant what I was told.

O P  

Posted: August 29th, 2011 4:21 PM

Typical Coughlin. Even if they were given space, does that mean they let Mr. Kleronomos slide. Fool...just a silly fool.

Brad Bartels from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 29th, 2011 3:09 PM

@ Jim Couglin: While each VMA endorsed candidates for Village President/Trustee/Clerk operate independently, I can report that our endorsed candidates have at no time been provided space for "free" from the Chris Kleronomos or his family. It is tradition that the VMA endorsed candidates lease space with short-term leases. At a time when the Arts District was in its early stages, we did rent space from them in the early "00s to draw attention to the candidates support for the District. I encourage those interested in learning more about the election filings for the VMA, our endorsed candidates or our opposition, to visit http://www.elections.il.gov/. Brad Bartels, VMA President.

epic lulz  

Posted: August 29th, 2011 12:26 PM

I don't know about buildings, but I do know that the Village doesn't inspect elevators every year as they are supposed to.

Why from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2011 12:11 PM

Silly is correct. When applying the building department wants to know what you are doing. Then they will determine if what you are doing will cause any structural problems that could cause something to collapse. So either the contractors didn't adhere to what they were going to do, or the inspector didn't know it would collapse. So what is it? Inspector, or contractor? Easy to access. What was approved and do the contractor adhere to that?


Posted: August 29th, 2011 12:07 PM

It didn't take long for Paul H to unleash the evil VMA threads. It's none of your business about the inspections but you paid ample attention to whom the VMA held space in. Quality comments again.


Posted: August 29th, 2011 9:28 AM

If it wasnt for the construction, the wall would not have fallen. It has everything to do with the permit inspection.

paul commercial building owner from oak park  

Posted: August 29th, 2011 7:48 AM

What Frank is probably referring to is an inspection during the permit process. This the village does all the time. An inspector walks into a permit inspection and just looks at the scope of the permitted work and makes sure it is done to code. As such Frank and I are both right.

paul commercial building owner from oak park  

Posted: August 29th, 2011 7:40 AM

I have no idea when the celebrated Mr. K's buildings were or were not inspected. It's none of my business. I am deeply sorry that a terrible thing has happened to negatively affect so many people. It's a matter of public record, that under Trapanovich and the Popesaurus Oak Park's multi-family and commercial buildings have been inspected enmass only once in 11 years. There are suppose to be rolling yearly building inspections where portions of buildings are inspected to keep landlords compliant.

Why from Anywhere  

Posted: August 28th, 2011 10:46 PM

Excellent information Frank from Oak Park. Now the Village board doesn't need to meet over and over again to have it go no where. We now know that the building was inspected. Now the board can find a new inspector.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: August 28th, 2011 10:29 PM

Who someone from the VMA please confirm or deny that Chris Kleronomos donated space for the party's election headquarters. I find it hard to believe this is true.

Frank from Oak Park  

Posted: August 28th, 2011 10:16 PM

@paul commercial, you're just wrong. The Village commercial inspector was there this year (in the Spring, before construction started). They inspect the property yearly, and have a budget to do so. Where do you get this stuff?

paul commercial building owner from oak park  

Posted: August 28th, 2011 8:24 PM

After the last two posts I know no one is going to believe this but it is true. All Oak Park buildings greater tan 4 units, including commercial, are supposed to have yearly inspections. The last time the yearly inspections took two years.

paul commercial building owner from oak park  

Posted: August 28th, 2011 8:12 PM

Who's to blame? The people in charge. In the past eleven years they given $40 million dollars to wealthy private developers and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal and staff time to put these complicated development deals together but they can't quite seem to spare staff to do the work they are mandated to do. I keep saying it's criminal, but what do I know?

paul commercial building owner from oak park  

Posted: August 28th, 2011 8:04 PM

How short everyone's memory is. The celebrated Mr. K, for many, many years, gave free rental space during election season to, guess who?, wait for it, I know what you're thinking, may be, could be, it is!!!: the VMA. Is this really a surprise? Village Hall's well kept and dangerous secret is that along with Mr. K, Oak Park's multi-family and commercial structures have only been inspected once in the past eleven years. They are supposed to be inspected yearly. The village has no money to do this.

Bruce Samuels from Oak Park  

Posted: August 28th, 2011 9:55 AM

I totally agree with this editorial. The Oak Park Community Organization (OPCO) facilitated meetings with Kleronomos and Pan's during the 1970's in an attempt to keep a supermarket on Harrison. One of the issues was the condition of the building they were renting. In the 1980's a group called BRUSH was formed and the Village manager and board were approached and invited to meetings to deal with these buildings. Hardly anything was done. It's time for long overdue enforcement.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 12:26 AM

What exactly should have been to address the problems encountered with the properties? Did outside legal counsel and the Village attorney attempt to seek relief and resolution through the courts. I'm sure there have been numerous attempts to get Mr. Kleronomos to fish or cut bait. Should we blame our courts and state lawmakers? It's a complex issue. No one wants vacant store fronts. They detract from a community's vitality. Kleronomos will game the system and that's where the problem lies.

epic lulz  

Posted: August 24th, 2011 11:47 PM

Thanks to the WJ editor for this. Any investigation should also include the crumbling parking garage and the crumbling public works building.

Responsiblity from Oak Park  

Posted: August 24th, 2011 11:21 PM

The editorial was fine except for a generation of elected officials since that sheds a lot of the responsibility of the building department as it is today. Also, holding someone accountable is no longer used. The word at one time was who is responsible, then the person or persons were fired. Then accountable came in and as long as someone took accountability, no one was fired. Now nothing is required. Check the paper work, and fire the village employee who did not do his or her job.

Frank from Oak Park  

Posted: August 24th, 2011 10:14 PM

Once again, a mean, ludicrous jab from the WJ editors, not bothering to think about facts, quick to blame the Board, staff, and Commissions. This is America, remember--"Village officials" are not big brother, forcing you to develop your property as they see fit, or hand-holding contractors. This is a failure of a lying, delusional property owner and his inept (disgruntled?) contractors. We're fortunate no one got hurt, and that these properties are finally leaving Kleronomos' hands.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: August 24th, 2011 9:24 PM

What exactly does it mean to "hold the building department accountable"? And while you are advocating fingerpointing; please name names and identify the Village officials who lacked the political moxie to deal with the Kleronomos family?

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: August 24th, 2011 1:00 AM

On the mark!!!!

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