December 2011

New investors in Ravenswood development a hit with neighbors

As seen in the Chicago Sun Times
There’s a new cast of characters involved in a plan to build a grocery-anchored retail complex and housing along Lawrence Avenue in Ravenswood. Their performance so far is drawing positive reviews from the neighborhood.

Gone from the investors is Magellan Development Group LLC, whose downtown pedigree and preference for building at least a multi-floor residential building made the community nervous. In place is a new group, some responsible for the retail part, others for a low-rise housing component planned for the open lot at 1900 W. Lawrence, just west of Metra’s Ravenswood stop.

Spearheading the retail is Seymour “Sy” Taxman, head of Taxman Corp. He said he hopes to have a 72,000-square-foot Mariano’s grocery open there by mid-2013. He said he expects the rest of the retail, totaling some 35,000 square feet, will be leased by the time the complex opens.

Working with Taxman are investors Timothy Barrett and Gene Porto and the firm Sierra Group Inc. The project preserves two oft-stated community priorities for the site: attracting a grocer and rebuilding a Sears auto repair facility that currently uses a small part of the property. Sears Holdings Corp., owner of a store nearby, also owns the lot.

Taxman said that after he presented his plans at a neighborhood meeting last week, he got a rare honor for a developer: a standing ovation.

The rest of the 6.5-acre site would get 162 units of rental housing, said Ald. Ameya Pawar, whose 47th Ward includes Ravenswood. He said they would be grouped in three walkup-style buildings, with 10 percent of the units reserved as affordable. Pawar said the residential developer is Greg Merdinger, who works with Belgravia Group Ltd.

Pawar said the housing development will get no subsidies from the city. The retail portion is in line for a $4.5 million boost from tax-increment financing, he said. Pawar has been a critic of the city’s use of TIF, but he said this subsidy is reasonable because the parcel’s tax revenue should repay it in about five years.

“This should be a catalyst for redevelopment along Lawrence Avenue, where a lot of the property is under-used,” he said. Pawar has scheduled two more community forums on the deal Dec. 15 and 19.

BANKRUPTCY LOG: I’ve written recently about the financial problems facing two high-end developments for the elderly on the Near North Side. Now comes word that a similar development in Bartlett has filed for bankruptcy.

Clare Oaks at 825 Carillon Drive filed for Chapter 11 protection Monday but will not shut down or liquidate. The site serves 325 residents and is owned by the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis.

Michael Hovde Jr. president of ownership’s board, said the filing will create time to find a new partner or owner. Trouble in the housing market has hit the senior sector, keeping many people in their homes who otherwise would move to facilities that offer a range of care options.

Hovde said Clare Oaks’ assisted living and memory support units are full, but that the independent living homes have been slow to draw occupancy.

Clare Oaks is not to be confused with the Clare at Water Tower, a senior development on the Loyola University Chicago downtown campus that also has filed for bankruptcy.

DOING THE DEALS: The 25-story, 304-unit apartment building at 77 W. Huron sold for $90 million to L&B Realty Advisors. Holliday Fenoglio Fowler LP marketed the building for owner Archstone. … JBS Logistics leased nearly 304,000 square feet at 2043 Corporate Lane, Naperville, with NAI Hiffman and Darwin Realty & Development Corp. advising on the deal. … Lowe Enterprises Investors said that on behalf of a pension fund, it acquired the 237-room Embassy Suites Chicago-North Shore/Deerfield at 1445 Lake Cook Road in Deerfield. Lowe Enterprises is from Los Angeles, so maybe it is unaware that Deerfield is not in the North Shore. … The law firm Hogan Marren Ltd. moved from 180 N. Wacker to 321 N. Clark, where it leased more than 11,000 square feet. Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. represented the firm. … Urban Partnership Bank will open a branch Thursday at 4310 St. Charles Road, Bellwood. It’s the bank’s third new location in two months in its effort to target areas that the competition neglects. … Chicago-based Heitman LLC said it formed a venture with Signature Senior Lifestyle Ltd. to put up senior housing in the United Kingdom.

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