Last week the developer owners of the downtown Colt building officially “put” the building to the village, using their option to make the village purchase the building that has been the center of put/call negotiations since 2001.

However, purchase of another building, 1145 Westgate, is less certain, as is what the village might do with that building, located across Westgate from the Colt.

In a Feb. 10 statement, the Taxman Corp. and Focus Development said they would sell both buildings for approximately $7.5 million. The put/call agreement with the village on the Colt alone stipulates a price just shy of $5 million.

Trustees said they need more information about the sale price of the 1145 building. Taxman Corp. CEO Sy Taxman told the board that if the Colt were to be sold to the village that he would also sell any other buildings he owned downtown at his cost.

“I intend to live by my commitment,” Taxman said last week.

Village President David Pope said last week that it wasn’t clear whether the developers’ $2.5 million price tag represented Taxman’s purchase price or that price plus other expenses related to the building.

Taxman said the price was “at our cost,” and that the companies would not profit from the sale.

Because Taxman played his hand first on the Colt, the village board was expected to merely sign off on the deal at a Tuesday meeting after press time. The purchase of the 1145 building was also on the agenda, but that matter isn’t as clear-cut.

“The board would need to have any discussion [about the 1145 building] in the context of the ultimate intended use of the parcel,” Pope said.

“The steering committee plan calls for that site to be used for creating the southern portion of a “New Street,” connecting Lake Street with North Boulevard and providing access to a parking garage on North Boulevard,” Pope explained.

“1145 doesn’t maintain anywhere near the historical significance of many of the other buildings on Westgate that clearly should be preserved,” Pope said. The steering committee’s plan came after months of meetings where the ad hoc committee heard input from citizens, Taxman’s architect, and village-hired experts on traffic, development and historic preservation.

Traffic experts said North Boulevard is isolated, and for a garage there to help with parking a connecting street is needed, Pope said.

Village-owned, non-historic buildings on Lake Street could be cleared for a Lake Street connection. However, 1145 is the only option on the southern portion for a new street, he said.

But Trustee Robert Milstein disagrees?#34;with all of it.

“I’m still not convinced that New Street [the steering committee’s generic name for a new Lake/North Boulevard connection] will necessarily decrease congestion,” Milstein said.

Milstein said traffic consultants weren’t asked, “What is the best solution?” they were asked only if the New Street in the steering committee plan would work. He said the street, which in the plan helps create four new corners of prime retail, was more of a marketing tool than a traffic solution.

Milstein wants the traffic experts’ opinion on what is needed and what the best solution might be.

Milstein also wants the 1145 building to be considered for renovation, saying that if the Colt building is preserved, so should 1145. Both buildings should be included in a Request for Proposals to plumb a real-world cost analysis for preservation, he said.

“I would like to see an architectural contest for the whole area,” Milstein said?#34;a short contest, where gifted architects could develop a vision for the entire downtown superblock area covered by the steering committee plan.

Some Marion Street merchants calling for the opening of the mall have said they would oppose the action if no new street is included in the plan.

But Milstein said not all merchants feel that way, and “I don’t think there’s been a definitive analysis for what the public wants for that area.”

The March 2005 downtown master plan calls for opening Marion Street and for demolishing five buildings for a new street placed just to the east of the 1145 building, also tabbed for destruction to build a new parking garage.

Just what role Taxman will now play in the redevelopment of downtown is uncertain. Asked whether he still owned or had rights to buy buildings downtown he said, “We might have.” Will he respond to future village-issued redevelopment RFPs? “We will wait and see what the future brings.” The company owns the Oak Leaves Building, 1140 Lake St., and the development on the southwest corner of Euclid Avenue and Lake Street.

However, Milstein said Taxman’s Feb. 10 statement, which accused the village of acting in bad faith in the put/call agreement, was “unacceptable” and “denigrated” the board and the community.

“I would not be very prone to accepting an RFP by Mr. Taxman if that’s how he feels,” Milstein said.

CONTACT: dcarter@wjinc.com

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