Fox River Grove pushes downtown development; Huntley has used similar strategy

Similar strategy used in Huntley

Cars drive on  Northwest Highway in Fox River Grove, where village officials are attempting to purchase commercial property across from the Metra station, on Thursday, July 12, 2018 in Fox River Grove.
Cars drive on Northwest Highway in Fox River Grove, where village officials are attempting to purchase commercial property across from the Metra station, on Thursday, July 12, 2018 in Fox River Grove.

In an attempt to make over Fox River Grove’s downtown area, village officials have their sights set on 10 properties they’d like to acquire and use to pitch to developers.

Using money from the village’s TIF district or the general capital fund, village officials hope buying land in the downtown area will pave the way for developers, Fox River Grove Village Administrator Derek Soderholm said.

The village already has begun to speak with property owners in the block bordered by Northwest Highway, Illinois Street, Lincoln Avenue and Opatrny Drive. Officials haven’t yet heard back on each offer, nor have they received any counteroffers, Soderholm said Thursday.

“We’ve done our research. We’ve consulted individuals and put forth what we would consider good faith offers that are market value for each property,” he said.

Village officials made their initial offers to property owners about a week ago. Soderholm declined to say how much the village is willing to spend in total for the 10 desired properties, claiming that going public with the numbers could interfere with ongoing negotiations.

Real estate agent Bruce Kaplan of Premier Commercial Realty said although he doesn’t know the specific details of Fox River Grove’s negotiation, he isn’t generally big on the idea of municipalities buying up property without already having an agreement with developers.

“It may be a variation of the age-old ‘build it and they will come’ thing,” he said.

Some local business owners such as William Gee, owner of New China restaurant at 308 Northwest Highway, are unwilling to sell their storefronts.

Gee’s business has operated at the same location since 1975, and he rents out three additional units around the restaurant, he said.

“I have four main streams of income in this building alone,” Gee said.

Fox River Grove has tried for the past several years to implement a downtown redevelopment project. The vision included a four-phase project that would have brought 500 apartments, additional retail space and more to the downtown area.

The project was never realized, but village officials are hopeful they can make the property attractive to developers looking to build residential and retail spaces.

Similar efforts are underway in Huntley.

In February 2017, Huntley Village Board trustees unanimously approved a bid to demolish a village-owned house, known as the Kelley House, for $24,821 and restore the site.

The 7,640-square-foot building is now set to house the second location of Woodstock-based BBQ King Smokehouse and two other retailers. 

Huntley also bought the former H.D. Catty Corp. building, previously occupied by the flexible packaging company from about 1945 to 2006. Currently, there are no developers interested in the property, Huntley Village Manager Dave Johnson said.

Soderholm acknowledged the possibility the village could buy the land with no reciprocal interest from developers, but maintained officials did their research before deciding to move forward with the plan.

“We’re fairly confident that we will be able to find a developer, work with a developer and bring something to that block that will be different than what’s there,” Soderholm said.

Main points of consideration for Fox River Grove should include scoping out any potential “environmental” challenges with the land, and approaching the project with patience, Johnson said.

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