Community Chest, the local United Way organization, will sell its building at the corner of Pleasant and Marion streets so it can stop being a landlord and put the nearly $1 million expected from the sale into furthering its mission.

“The [executive] board decided after a long process that taking care of a building is not our mission,” said Michelle Hankes, executive director of Community Chest/United Way of Oak Park, River Forest, and Forest Park since April.

Hankes estimated that between 5 and 10 percent of staff time is devoted to caring for the building and its other tenants, the Volunteer Center, which leases the space at no cost, and Purple Monkey Studios, which has previously expressed the wish to move to a larger North Avenue site.

The Community Chest, which has four employees, doesn’t need all of the space it has now, Hankes said, and will rent a smaller space in Oak Park once the sale goes through.

“It doesn’t matter where in the village we end up,” Hankes said. “We’re still going to work at what the Community Chest does best, and that’s community-building.”

The 8,175-square-foot Pleasant/Marion building is being listed at $995,000 though David King, of David King & Associates.

King said the building will be attractive both to investors and to developers wanting to reuse the space. The building might attract the eyes of business owners looking to expand, and to landlords or businesses currently leasing but who want to own their space. The building is unique in being one of only a few commercial-only buildings of its size downtown.

The building has easy access, but is also on the edge of a business district.

On the other hand, new retail spaces coming to the Opera Club (former Mar Lac building), and a revamp of the former wood shop on Marion Street will boost the street’s retail feel. A redevelopment could offer first-floor retail.

“The marketplace will speak,” King said.

Hankes said the Community Chest will use some of the proceeds of the sale for moving expenses but that most will be used to create an endowment to help support the organizations the Community Chest funds.

She said the Community Chest’s finances are stable, and that the United Way is recommending selling off property to all of its members.

King said the building’s two tenants could be retained with the sale. Purple Monkey’s Steve Saraceno could not be reached for comment, but the company requested financial assistance from the Village of Oak Park to help move to a North Avenue space.


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