The Oak Park Board of Trustees voted unanimously to spend $1.3 million from the Madison Street Tax Increment Finance (TIF) District to purchase the parcel of land that is now home to Car-X Tire & Auto, 700 Madison St.
The parcel of land is intended to be used for a much larger project proposed last year by Jupiter Realty, which would involve assembling parcels of land, including the village-owned parking lot at the northeast corner of Madison and Oak Park Avenue and other adjacent properties along Madison.
Jupiter principal Jerry Ong said in September of 2016 that Jupiter was working to purchase the Car-X property as well as the nearby Foley-Rice buildings on the north and south side of Madison, as well as Spike’s Boutique Hotel for Dogs at 725 Madison St.
Public discussion of the proposed Jupiter project has slowed down over the past 12 months, but Jupiter said last year it aimed to build a large-scale project on both sides of Madison Street on the 700 North block and the north side of the 600 block.
A mixed-use development with 39 condominiums and 34,850 square feet of retail space would be built on the village parking lot and properties to the east, which includes the Car-X property.
A 48,400-square-foot grocery store or other large retailer would be located on the south side of Madison in the 700 block, which is now occupied by the former Foley-Rice automobile dealer.
Jupiter’s plan also includes a three-story, mixed-use building with 13,300 square feet of retail on the north side of the 600 block of Madison.
Jupiter has the Car-X property under contract, but that contract is set to expire if they don’t make an offer, according to Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb. He told trustees that Car-X is now being approached by other franchises owners within their own company to sell the property.
He said the village can “walk away” from the deal and “deal with the next owner.”
“Or we could jump on this opportunity and try to make the [parking lot] that the taxpayers own … more valuable by having Car-X out of there.” Abu-Taleb said.
“Look, I think everybody understands that, over the last four or five years, we have a village [where] the taxpayers have owned more than 365,000 square feet of property that was off the tax rolls.
“It’s not like we’re in love [with] owning property because we’ve gotten rid of all of it pretty much, except the northeast corner of Oak Park and Madison.”
He noted that other village boards have unsuccessfully attempted to purchase Car-X. “This is an opportunity to have control over what happens in that area,” Abu-Taleb said.
Oak Park resident Chris Donovan, who opposes the redevelopment project, asked whether the village has an appraisal showing the property is worth $1.3 million. Donovan clarified after the meeting that he does not oppose the project itself, but the part of the proposal that would reorient Madison Street, causing the commercial corridor to bend near the intersection with Oak Park Avenue.
Village Manager Cara Pavlicek said the village did not appraise the property.
“This is the price they are willing to sell that property for, and I think there is a decision for the village when you talk about implementing the Madison vision,” she said. “It has been a property that is key to connecting another vacant parcel with our property for a long period of time, and this is the price the owner is willing to enter into a sales agreement. It wasn’t reached easily.”
Trustee Deno Andrew asked if purchasing the property would put the village in a stronger position for any future project, even if the property does not have a market value of $1.3 million.
“I think that multiple village boards have really struggled with how to connect the number of vacant parcels along Madison Street,” Pavlicek replied, “and when the village board established that their priority was really East Avenue to Oak Park and Madison, I think this is aligned with that strategy, and if the village is able to assemble those parcels, you have a better ability to identify the highest and best use for that area.”