Retailers in the Oak Park Arts District might be getting an early Christmas present, with the start of a fix up of a festering eyesore in the heart of the business stretch.
It was back in August that the façade of a property at 201-211 Harrison collapsed, spilling bricks on the street and injuring one passerby. The building has remained uninhabitable since then, leaving three local businesses homeless during the holiday shopping season.
But according to village officials, Northlake-based Creative Contracting pulled permits for repairs Tuesday morning, and will start mending the building next month.
“Plans have been reviewed and they’re good to go, so we’re hopeful the contractor will be starting the second week of January,” said Village Manager Tom Barwin.
The property is currently in foreclosure, after the River Forest resident who owns it, Chris Kleronomos, fell behind on a $3.5 million construction loan, for which he put 201-211 Harrison up as collateral. In September, the court-appointed receiver who is overseeing the building told Wednesday Journal that Kleronomos had been ordered to stay out of the building.
The partial collapse happened in August, when workers hired by Kleronomos performed unpermitted work by removing parts of the building’s façade.
Drawings for the repairs were approved last week and a contractor was picked recently, according to Steve Witt, head of the village’s building and property standards department. After months of delays, Witt believes that the one-story commercial building may finally be on its way to being reopened. If it takes much longer, he added, Oak Park might need to start thinking about razing it.
“Hopefully they get this thing moving. It’s overdue,” he said. “Otherwise, it would be a shame if the village had to move forward with some thought of demolishing it.”
The collapse has left Prodigy Glassworks homeless, along with a Chinese eatery that was in the works, and Briejo Restaurant, which had closed temporarily with plans to retool. Matt Kwilas, the owner of Prodigy, said he’s been in limbo since the summer, blowing glass occasionally at another studio in the city.
He’s been able to coast on funds from a couple of recent fundraisers but hopes that he might soon return to his studio. Kwilas is unable to relocate, as his heavy glassblowing equipment is stuck in the shuttered storefront.
“I’m just trying to do that to have a little cash for the holidays,” he said of his blowing outside of Oak Park. “I’ve been living on everybody’s kindness, but money is running out, and we’re at four months now.”
Earlier this year, village hall issued several citations to Kleronomos, who has not returned numerous phone calls made by Wednesday Journal since his buildings fell into foreclosure in February. But his attorney on Monday claimed that the citations were unwarranted, and that the longtime property owner is trying to regain control of the building.
Kleronomos is reportedly working with the bank that filed the foreclosure suit, attempting to modify the loan, according to attorney Mas Takiguchi. He claimed that Kleronomos’ insurance company has agreed that he wasn’t at fault for the collapse, but the lawyer declined to release any documentation supporting that claim.
Takiguchi is expecting that there might be some resolution on the loan issue by the end of January.
“The bank’s management is very interested in a collaborative solution to not only the foreclosures, but also repair of the collapsed parapet wall,” he said.
Barwin said late Tuesday morning that it will take about three months for Creative Contracting to complete the repairs.