Volvo tower a landmark to expressway travelers

Dealership hosts gala party to celebrate $1 million project

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It's not Frank Lloyd Wright or the Continental Divide, but Oak Park has a new landmark in the form of a seven-car tower at Volvo of Oak Park.

Completed in recent weeks at a cost of approximately $1 million, the tower is the cherry atop-or rather just to the north of-the new dealership, which opened in October 2004 at 1140 Garfield St. The tower is visible from the Eisenhower Expressway near Harlem.

"Obviously our plans were to develop a landmark, considering this was the first-ever Volvo tower," said Carmelo Scalzo, vice president of the dealership.

Volvo invited community notables to a party last week to celebrate the tower's completion. The gala event featured fine food and cocktails, classical music, and an art show produced in part by the Oak Park Art League.

Scalzo said the idea for the tower came when Van Stokes Sr., an engineer whose company produces lift systems, showed him a book of structures he built. It included a picture of a double-decker car showcase for Mercedes-Benz in Berlin, Germany.

"I said, 'Wow, that's awesome. We gotta push this to Volvo,'" Scalzo said.

Once corporate and the Village of Oak Park gave the thumbs up, Volvo of Oak Park hired local architect Errol Kirsch to design the tower. Stokes, of course, built it.

Kirsch also designed the renovated Foley-Rice Cadillac building at 711 Madison St.

Cars are placed into their spaces in the tower by a completely automated process, Scalzo said. Lifts raise the car to the right level, then push it into the glass box lighted at night to be visible from the highway.

Scalzo said the investment is already starting to pay dividends in attracting new customers.

That's good for Oak Park, which takes the first $100,000 in sales tax from the dealership, then rebates a portion of taxes beyond that amount. The amount of the rebate returning to the dealership declines over 20 years as part of the deal that moved the company from its old location at 260 Madison St. down to the corner of Harlem and Garfield, where it built its $6 million new home.

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