Fenwick High School is closing in on the purchase of the former Packard Dealership building and the nearby lot, currently owned by Foley-Rice Cadillac.

Utilized as a used car dealership by Foley-Rice for many years, the property at 644 Madison St. was placed on the Landmark Illinois 2007 Watch List last month.

Fenwick hopes to close the deal with Foley-Rice sometime this month, according to Gregory Melnyk, attorney for the Fenwick Foundation, a separate entity working for the long-term viability of the high school.

The school will seek a joint venture to develop the property, hoping to add first floor retail and a perpetual easement for around 150 parking spaces to be used by the school.

Melnyk could not disclose a purchase price, saying the deal was still being worked out in its final stages.

Once the deal goes through, Fenwick plans to release a request for proposals (RFP) for the 644 Madison property. What a developer puts there depends on village zoning ordinances and the Madison Street Corridor Plan.

Under a business retention agreement between Foley-Rice and the village, the property is required to be used as a premium car dealership until 2012, and Village President David Pope said, “There isn’t latitude to do otherwise.”

Owner Terry Rice has requested to be removed from the agreement.

Rice wants to repay $400,000 the village invested to modernize the dealership before Foley-Rice announced it was closing recently. Pope said if it isn’t repaid, the village would not release him from the agreement.

“Terry wants to repay every nickel because he is an honorable guy,” Pope said.

Melnyk made no mention of demolishing the historic building, designed by architect Elmer Roberts in 1924.

“If you look at Madison Street, there are few buildings along the corridor that you definitely don’t want to see come down,” Pope said of the one-time Packard dealership. “This is one of them.”

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