The Village Board of Trustees approved spending $133,000 to demolish a long-vacant, two-story office building at 6641-43 North Ave., which officials say is dangerous and has curbed economic development.
Village Trustee Adam Salzman said in a telephone interview that the empty office building, surrounded for years by abandoned scaffolding, is “not only an eyesore but it’s a hazard.”
Salzman said that $50,000 already had been budgeted for the demolition project, but further analysis of the site revealed asbestos present and underground storage tanks that also must be removed.
“It’s a determination by the village that the parcel is worth more as a vacant lot than it is with that building on it,” Salzman said.
The village accepted the deed in lieu of foreclosure in July of 2014. The previous owner was foreclosed upon, and the bank that held the property stopped maintaining it, Salzman said.
He said there are “other vacant properties on North Avenue but none that posed as much of a hazard in terms of public safety and in terms of its location.”
There is currently no plan in place for what will take the place of the building once it is torn down, Salzman said.
“There should be a hard plan; I would like for there to be a hard plan; there is no hard plan,” he said.
Judith Alexander, chair of the North Avenue Zoning and Development Advisory Committee and co-founder of the North Avenue Neighbors Association of Oak Park, said in a telephone interview that she and others in the community have been advocating for the village to deal with the problem building for a couple of years now.
The scaffolding has been up around the building for several years, she said.
“We were just advocating for a change on the status quo; tear it down or do something with it.”
She noted that Salzman, who lives near North Avenue, has been NANA’s main contact in getting movement on dealing with the problem building.
“We’d like to see a wonderful viable business go in there,” she said. “Our attitude is any viable business is great. We just don’t want any more blight — and no more pawnshops, currency exchanges or payday loan operations.”