Web Extra!

Scroll down to see a slideshow of photos from the Colt building demolition

After a storied life spanning more than 80 years, the Colt building became a pile of rubble earlier this week, sitting in the middle of downtown Oak Park.

For the past three months, a demolition company has, in fits and starts, been tearing down four village-owned buildings along Lake Street and Westgate at a cost of $1.45 million. That work reached its crescendo last Thursday, May 28, as the last pieces of the so-called Colt building at 1125 Lake bit the dust.

Crews still needed to clear away the debris, remove the foundations and the floor and fill the site with clay as of Monday, said Village Engineer Jim Budrick. Most of the materials will be recycled. Oak Park considered paying another $60,000 to preserve pieces of the Colt’s art-deco façade, but decided, instead, to save that money.

Budrick says the goal is to have the work completed and a new parking lot paved over the Colt site by July 4. Altogether, about 110 new parking spaces will be added. The new lot will also span the site of another village-owned parcel at 1145 Westgate, which was previously demolished.

Two smaller village-owned buildings east of the Colt at 1121-1123 Lake, still remain to be demolished. Budrick expects those to be razed by the end of next week, to be replaced by a 5,000-square-foot green space with tables and benches.

The village bought the Colt building and 1145 Westgate from developer Sy Taxman in February of 2006, prompting a dispute about whether to preserve the old structures.

Built in the 1920s, consultants found that only 20 percent of the Colt building’s original facade remained, and it would cost at least $7 million to preserve and reconstruct it.

In October of 2007, Oak Park sent out a call for developers interested in developing the site. Seven developers responded and in July of last year, trustees chose Virginia-based AvalonBay Communities, Inc., which dropped out of the partnership in January because of the downturn in the housing market. Chicago-based Clark Street Development, meanwhile, said it wanted to continue with the project.

Andy Stein, principal for Clark Street, confirmed Tuesday that his company is working with the village on a reformatted project for the site, but he declined to comment further.

The demolition was supposed to be finished by May 15, but a labor dispute at the demolition company pushed the work back six weeks. Oak Park is penalizing Champion Environmental Services $12,000 for the delay. However, an extra $30,000 was added to the contract for additional asbestos removal.

“I’ll be glad when it’s done,” Budrick said Monday.

-Marty Stempniak

Web Extra

Audio Slideshow
Last year Wednesday Journal tagged along on a pre-bid walk-through of the Colt site when the village was selecting a demolition company. Our Web editor and a reporter were among a group of about 20 people who got one of the last chances to check out the controversial downtown Oak Park building and its two village-owned neighbors.

Click here to watch the audio slideshow

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