The Cook County Land Bank Authority (CCLBA) was established with the purpose of attracting developers to distressed properties in order to spur redevelopment and stabilize otherwise marginal communities. So it was a surprise two weeks ago to learn that the CCLBA Land Transaction Committee agenda items on March 4 included consideration of the sale of a property in Oak Park. Oak Park needs to be stabilized?

It may be that it is the Roosevelt Road commercial district that is in need of outside assistance; in this case it is for 6104 Roosevelt Road, a vacant lot long ago occupied by an automobile service station. The Cook County Land Bank Authority acquired the deed from the previous owner, SA REO Fund 900 LLC in September 2018. Two months prior to acquisition, the CCLBA extended a $5,000 loan to SA REO, which County Treasurer records reveal hadn’t paid any taxes on the property since 2012. That’s hundreds of thousands of dollars owed to local taxing districts, including the village, and still the county gave the SA REO a loan. Since the CCLBA got the deed, the property has been tax exempt. On March 4, the CCLBA was considering an offer to sell 6104 Roosevelt Road for $115,000.

That may be a tempting offer, coming with an admirable use: a parking lot for recharging electric vehicles. That’s the kind of use that’s in line with “Oak Park values.” But is 6104 Roosevelt Road a viable location for an emerging business? Who would be the customer base, and what would those customers do for the hours it takes to recharge their electric vehicles? There’s nothing to do and nowhere to go along that part of Roosevelt Road that would keep the customer busy for long. Ahead of its time, does building a charging station at that location mean that enough customers will come to support the business in the foreseeable future?

This isn’t the fault of the buyer and the proposed business, but failure shouldn’t be an option for them. The lack of the significant effort by the village and the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation to attract and retain businesses along Roosevelt Road may not be enough to support an otherwise good idea anytime soon. The prospective buyer may want to reconsider their business plan and their offer to the CCLBA. Or are they expecting some other support from the village?

Chris Donovan
Oak Park

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