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Water park remains in developer's plans

By MICHAEL GIBBS

michaelgibbs@nwherald.com

HARVARD - Joe Buralli's dream of building an indoor water park might not be dead in the water after all.

The developer agreed to buy the vacant Motorola Inc. building in July 2003, only to have the deal fall apart in August 2004. But Buralli said Monday he still is pursuing a deal for the property along Route 14 on the city's north side.

"We still believe an indoor water park is the best use for that building," Buralli said."We work on this on a daily basis, and we are just about there [in securing financing]."

Buralli, through his Harvard-based company, H2Otels USA LLC, wanted to turn the 1.6 million-square-foot former Motorola wireless telephone and two-way radio distribution facility into an indoor water park development.

The development, first expected to open around April 2004, was to have created hundreds of jobs. Plans included a corporate training center, fitness equipment, go-carts, hotel rooms, miniature golf and movie theaters.

Although several contract extensions were granted, Buralli and Motorola never closed the deal. Motorola terminated the agreement before the project got off the ground.

Jennifer Weyrauch, a spokeswoman at Schaumburg-based Motorola, said Monday "there are no new details at this time" regarding the communication giant's sale of its Harvard facility.

However, Harvard City Administrator Dave Nelson said Motorola has told the city that Buralli and two "parties we are not aware of" have expressed interest in the property.

"We hate to get overly optimistic, but the company has told us there is more interest in the building than there has been in the past," Nelson said.

"The city does not have much say in who purchases the property and when. The city is going to support any good, clean redevelopment of the site."

Motorola's Harvard facility employed 5,000 at its peak during the technology boom of the late 1990s. Before it was shuttered in March 2003, the facility employed 1,200.

Motorola, Buralli and city officials have not disclosed the potential sale price of the Harvard facility.

"We will not give up until the property is sold to somebody else," Buralli said. "We still would love to do it. I have two years of my life invested in this project, not counting the money I have invested."

Buralli said his company has identified two alternative sites if a Motorola deal fails, but would not elaborate.

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