Whiteco building in downtown Oak Park under contract

No word yet on potential buyer


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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

Ownership of the Whiteco building in downtown Oak Park may soon change hands, according to the website of Moran & Company, an apartment investing firm that's listing the property.

Known officially as Oak Park Place, the 14-story, 204-unit luxury apartment building on the market since early May is under contract according to a website posting: http://www.moranandco.com/listings/property.asp?id=881.

The building was constructed after years of intense debate about design, size, funding, and development. The adjacent parking structure, the Holly Court garage, caused its own set of problems for the village and the developer.

The village expanded the garage in 2009, shortly after the apartment building was finished, but it was discovered there were cracks in the concrete. Oak Park paid for the expansion, but Whiteco remained responsible for the repairs and consequent costs due to construction problems.

Although the property may soon have new owners, Whiteco is still responsible for the garage repairs, according to Rob Cole, Oak Park assistant village manager. According to Cole, Whiteco has a formal obligation to make needed repairs, and the company has verbally acknowledged its responsibility to finish the necessary repairs.

The new owners of the property will also have to follow the redevelopment agreement established between Whiteco and the village, which stipulates the apartments remain rental units for 10 years following its opening. Any issues moving forward will be part of larger conversations between the village, Whiteco and any potential new property owner, Cole said.

While the Whiteco building is home to a successful Trader Joe's grocery store, it has gained attention for smaller retail spaces that have sat mostly vacant since the building opened.

A two-year effort to fill one of the spaces with a WeightWatchers franchise was secured in July when the village board voted to allow the business to move into the retail overlay zone.  The lease details for the 1,300-square-feet space are being worked through.

After WeightWatchers moves in, there is still one vacant space remaining. The commercial area of the project totals roughly 12,700 square feet.

Clarification: A previous version of this article explained that Whiteco had verbal agreements with the village to make repairs. As noted in the updated version, Whiteco has verbally acknowledged its "formal obligation" to complete those repairs.

Email: anna@oakpark.com Twitter: @AnnaLothson

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Just Sayin'  

Posted: August 31st, 2012 3:55 PM

Formal obligation = written contractual obligation.

Verbal Agreements?  

Posted: August 31st, 2012 1:25 PM

That has to be a misprint or error in the article. The village is really banking on a "verbal agreement" to finish the garage repair work? If true, that is completely outrageous.


Posted: August 31st, 2012 9:11 AM

The Village - willing to sell its soul for a few more parking spaces. There's two ways to develop business in OP: neglect homeowners and try to bribe business to come, or make OP a great place to live with upwardly mobile individuals, and business will come to that demographic. I think we know what the Village chose. Now excuse me. I have to drive out to Oak Brook to buy underwear and socks.


Posted: August 31st, 2012 9:03 AM

@Bruce Samuels. I certainly agree with your "Soviet style monstrosity" description, but there are A LOT of other buildings in Oak Park and other nearby communities for you and your friends to purchase and then manage as you see fit. Attached article states how Whiteco had been for sale since May - you could have bought it and then made 100% of the units "affordable housing." Or, call the "Mr 1% AND liberal" Warren Buffet and DEMAND that he purchase Whiteco and you'll manage it for him! Soros?

Bruce Samuels from Oak Park  

Posted: August 30th, 2012 11:24 PM

No one made a better offer because it did not go out for competitive bidding. There was a perfectly fine building that was torn down to be replaced by this Soviet style monstrosity.


Posted: August 30th, 2012 9:40 PM

@Mr. S. I'm a "numbers" guy and you've just introduced some figures that prevent me from making any valid remarks. Regardless of the actual numbers - and 500 characters aren't sufficient for spreadsheet analysis - I do know that you or any one else was capable of making a similar or superior offer to VOP...and no one did. I therefore believe that the $10M - or whatever figure - was necessary for the project to be built and that if they had to follow your proposal...OP would have nothing today.

Bruce Samuels from Oak Park  

Posted: August 30th, 2012 9:33 PM

The Village admits to taxpayer subsidies of over $10 million to a very rich Dean White, although some say it was double that. Given even the lower figure that's almost 30 years of rental offsets for the $1000 folks.


Posted: August 30th, 2012 7:00 PM

@Bruce Samuels. Here's my suggestion, why don't you and your friends raise the money and purchase Whiteco or some place similar? You can then, if it's legal, do as you please with every unit. I don't know what you mean by "millions of dollars of taxpayer subsidies," but if the contract didn't call for them.....why should they do it? BTW, the bldg has 204 units - 15% of that is 31 - that is hardly "a few units" and, per your scenario, would mean a loss of over $350,000 per year to the owners!?!

Bruce Samuels from Oak Park  

Posted: August 30th, 2012 5:54 PM

We're talking about a building that received millions of dollars of taxpayer subsidies. Surely this owner had an obligation to ALL taxpayers.

Bruce Samuels from Oak Park  

Posted: August 30th, 2012 5:49 PM

@Unfortunately: The old guideline was that a household could spend about 30% of its income on housing. So if the household had a combined income of $40,000 then $12,000, or $1000 a month was affordable. Now, I know that Whitco apts. rent for more than that despite the fact that they have some concrete walls with the electrical conduit running on the surface of the wall, but I don't think having a few units rent for $1000 instead of $2,000 would cause a problem.


Posted: August 30th, 2012 1:49 PM

@Roger French. Rather than 10-15% "affordable" - let's make it 75 - 80%. In your opinion, would this have an impact on the 20 - 25% "luxury"? Why? Why not? Have you noticed that many people choose to live only in certain areas of OP? Humphrey vs Elmwood identicals? To go further, have you noticed that many people do not wish to live in OP at all? My point? People, and not just those who can afford "luxury," have a relative acceptance level. I notice that you live in OP and not Austin? Why?

Ray Johnson from Oak Park  

Posted: August 30th, 2012 12:44 PM

@ Mr. Lauber: there is a redevelopment agreement which spells out the contractual obligations of Whiteco, including the responsibilities of the garage, so there is more than just a 'verbal' agreement. Re: your comment about affordable housing units, I believe the last time I checked Oak Park had over 400 housing choice vouchers in town, and we recently approved a project for an additional 51 units. I believe in comparison River Forest is close to single digits.

Roger French from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 9:55 PM

"but the value of the 85% would decline.".... your opinion or is there substantial evidence of this? btw "Humphrey vs Bonnie Brae" are "identical?" wouldn't that require two like properties closer together??


Posted: August 29th, 2012 8:51 PM

@B Samuels. I appreciate,agree and/or support much of your posts....but I do not agree and/or support what you wrote at 7:39 today. Why? IMO, people chose to live in "luxury" residences because they wish to minimize, rightly or wrongly, the perceived "issues" from the occupants of "affordable households" (btw, define "affordable"?). And so, yes, income would increase if the 15% of vacant units were rented - but the value of the 85% would decline. Example? Identicals on Humphrey vs Bonnie Brae.

Bruce Samuels from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 7:39 PM

But well over 15% of the units have remained vacant throughout its history. If they were rented the value of the building would go up.

Skippy from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 7:15 PM

Um, if "10-15% of the units be affordable to households with modest incomes", then it ceases to be a luxury apartment building and its value drops significantly.

Bruce Samuels from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 6:30 PM

I agree with Dan 100%. Oak Park also gave multiple millions to rich Mr. White. The comprehensive plan is being revisited, a new Village Manager is being hired and the majority of the Board is up for election. Come to Unity Temple (Lake/Kenilworth)on September 9 at 6 PM for a Town Hall meeting to discuss all the above and more.

Dan Lauber from River Forest  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 5:45 PM

"Whiteco representatives have provided verbal agreements the company would finish the necessary repairs." That's great. As Yogi Berra probably said, "Verbal agreements aren't worth the paper they're written on." It's a shame that Oak Park leadership ignored its own comprehensive plan and did not require that 10-15 percent of the units be affordable to households with modest incomes. The village owned the land and could have required this as part of the sale.

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