Chicago Heights envisions retail center at former Dodge car dealership

2013-03-05T17:30:00Z 2013-03-05T20:11:31Z Chicago Heights envisions retail center at former Dodge car dealershipPaul Czapkowicz Times Correspondent
March 05, 2013 5:30 pm  • 

CHICAGO HEIGHTS | In hopes of welcoming a major retailing establishment to the northeast corner of Lincoln Highway and Western Avenue, the City Council on Monday began seeking proposals for the purchase and development of 6 acres of city-owned property at 20937 Western Ave.

South Oak Dodge once occupied the site which has been vacant for more than 10 years, according to Mayor David Gonzalez.

Chicago Heights had entered into an option-to-purchase agreement for the property with Currie Motors in October 2009. The city would have received $332,000 from the sale of the land.

The plan involved relocating Currie Motors' car dealership and storage facility from across the street at 21000 Western Ave. in Olympia Fields.

Chicago Heights had been granting extensions of the option-to-purchase agreement as Currie Motors had been unable to complete a redevelopment deal for its Olympia Fields location.

The council's move on Monday allows the city's economic development consulting firm, Urbanomic Solutions, to send out 400 emails in search of interested real estate development firms.

"We are looking for retail development, ideally something that will generate some sales tax for the city," said Evan Summers, of Urbanomic Solutions.

Since the property is in a tax increment financing district, Gonzalez said Chicago Heights would not benefit much from property taxes generated.

He said the city will allow no pawn shops, cash-for-gold stores or liquor establishments to be part of any development at the site.

"That is within the proposal," Gonzalez said.

A news release from the mayor's office identified restaurants, clothing boutiques and electronic stores as some ideal tenants for the property.

In other city news:

* The council approved an agreement to allow M.E. Simpson Co. Inc. to conduct a 2013 water line leak detection program.

"M.E. Simpson performed this work last year and they found 35 underground leaks that never surfaced," Chief of Staff Lisa Aprati said. "So when they find the leaks then the water department is contacted and our crews go out there and repair the leak."

Aprati said the leak survey program will be conducted on about 185 miles of pipe in the city's water distribution system.

The project will cost the city $27,750.

"The leak survey is necessary to see where the city's water loss is because, as you all know, we pay for that loss regardless," Aprati said.

* The council also approved an ordinance that allows the city to accept bids in search of reduced electric rates for residents.

A majority of residents approved a referendum in November that gave the city the ability to seek savings through electrical aggregation.

The city expects to receive bids this week and residents could see lower electric bills within the next two or three months if a lower rate is secured.

Once the city chooses a new electricity supplier, residents will receive letters informing them of their ability to opt out of the program if they wish.

"Otherwise, they're swept in and would receive the lower savings," said Sharon Durling, director of marketing for the Northern Illinois Municipal Electric Collaborative.

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