Following a last-ditch effort to save the historic Foley-Rice building at 644 Madison St., the Oak Park village board unanimously rejected a proposal approved by the Historic Preservation Commission to declare the building an historic landmark.

The structure, built in 1925, has served as a showroom for various car dealerships since its construction and represents a time when that area of Madison Street was known as motor row. It has now been vacant for more than a decade.

Preservation advocates have argued that the building, with its terra cotta features and elaborate decoration, should be preserved and reused, rather than torn down. The building is slated for demolition to make room for a second Oak Park Pete’s Fresh Market grocery store.

Last week, the Oak Park Board of Trustees urged the developer, Jupiter Realty, to work with architects and historic preservation experts to find a solution that could save part or all of the building.

Frank Heitzman, an architect and preservationist who is pressing for saving the building, told trustees that the developer promised to work with architects to save the south and east facades of the building.

That restoration could cost the developer somewhere between $1 million and $2 million, Heitzman said.

Trustee Deno Andrews said he was on the fence over whether to support the landmark designation, but added that he believed it would be unfair to the developer, considering that the village already has made an agreement with Jupiter to develop the land.

“We shouldn’t go back on a deal like that,” he said.

Trustee Jim Taglia said he was concerned about the state of the building, which has long been vacant. During a recent tour of the structure, Taglia said he learned that the basement is flooded up to the ceiling “and has been so for years and is a block of ice.”

Taglia encourage developers to “use all the tools and resources they have to save what can be saved.”

“We have to watch what we spend and we have to be good fiscal stewards,” he said, noting the hefty price tag for restoring or saving the building.

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