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Former Motorola campus in Harvard to be auctioned off online

City officials want buyer to have plan to spark economic activity

HARVARD – Local officials simply want any owner of the 1.52 million-square-foot former Motorola campus committed to bringing jobs to Harvard, expressing renewed opportunity as the site soon could change ownership for the first time in eight years.

Online auction house Ten-X.com recently announced it would auction Motorola's former regional headquarters, which has sat vacant since 2003, during a sale from April 18 through April 20. The opening bid for the site, featuring four multi-story buildings, two heliports and other amenities, starts at $2.7 million.

Harvard officials, who long have tried to find users for the former campus, simply want the buyer to have a plan that can spark economic activity in the city.

"Our organization and the City of Harvard have felt it would benefit the city to have a user who is going to fill the building and bring employment to Harvard," said Charles Eldredge, executive director of the Harvard Economic Development Corp. "That will benefit Harvard substantially."

Ten-X teamed up with Chicago-based real estate broker JLL to promote the three-day auction. JLL started marketing the site shortly after Miami-based Optima International purchased the campus for $16.75 million in 2008.

Since then, Optima International has made a minimal investment in the property, even showing reluctance to make improvements that could help market the site, Eldredge said.

Around 2014, the company, through its limited liability company Optima Ventures, stopped heating, maintaining and paying property taxes on the vacant campus after years of doing so. A private equity group in Chicago eventually secured a tax lien on the property after Optima Ventures failed to pay more than $300,000 in property taxes in fall 2014.

Optima's recent decision to auction the campus could present better redevelopment opportunities for a city looking to regain a major job creator after Motorola closed its regional headquarters, Eldredge said.

Local officials now have to wait and see what happens with the former campus.

Eldredge said his economic development group has informed people who previously expressed interest in the property about the upcoming auction. City officials also are watching to see how the auction unfolds, as Harvard prepares to work with any new owner.

The Harvard Economic Development Corp. is aware of some potential buyers who are doing "considerable due diligence" to prepare for the bidding, a sign that indicates to Eldredge active interest in the former Motorola campus.

Built in 1997, Motorola's expansive site at 2001 N. Division St. includes a two-story, 619,590-square-foot manufacturing building, a 355,515-square-foot distribution center, a five-story office building, a two-story services building and warehouse space, according to Ten-X.

Aside from the heliports, amenities throughout the site include two daycare facilities, a cafeteria that can fit 1,100 people, a fitness center and a 500-seat auditorium. Biking and walking trails that border ponds and undeveloped acreage also adorn the former campus.

"Midwest Corporate Campus is a state-of-the-art corporate office and logistics campus perfectly suited for the kinds of buyers who use the Ten-X Commercial platform," Gordon Smith, general manager for Ten-X's commercial real estate division, said in a statement. "This property could potentially bring hundreds of jobs to this area, servicing employees from central Midwest cities, such as Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison and St. Louis."

Requests for comment with both Optima International and JLL were not returned Monday. Ten-X, formerly called Auction.com, has sold more than 200,000 residential and commercial properties since 2007 through its online real estate marketplace, according to its website.

Unsuccessful ideas in the past to fill the large Motorola campus have varied from attracting a major company to transforming it into a water park or a prison. Recently, local officials have turned attention to try and creating a mixture of uses for the property.

City Administrator Dave Nelson said the city will be awaiting the outcome of the auction, as it will give the clearest indication to what could happen next to the former Motorola campus.

"We will be intently watching to see what happens," Nelson said. "We would like to see something happen with the property. But what that means? We don't know yet."

• Real estate broker JLL is scheduling property tours for interested bidders from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday and again on April 15.

• To make an appointment, contact Mark Kolar at 312-228-3214 or email mark.kolar@am.jll.com.

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