By Bob Uphues
The village of Riverside is re-purchasing a downtown property it once owned and used for recreation programming in order to use it for that same purpose in the future.
On Aug. 15, trustees voted 4-0 to acquire the commercial property at 43 E. Quincy St. by buying out a $207,000 mortgage on the property. The property had been sold in 2016 to NW Construction, which borrowed money from the previous owner, Riverside resident Thomas Barr, for the purchase.
NW Construction reportedly has defaulted on the loan and Barr would have foreclosure on the loan if the village had not chosen to step in and scoop up the 10,000-square-foot property.
In addition to paying off the mortgage note, the village is paying NW Construction $20,000 and expending about $10,000 in legal expenses related to the acquisition.
The village board on Aug. 15 also approved transferring $237,000 from its general operating fund to the capital projects fund to pay for all of the expenses related to the change in the property's ownership.
"The acquisition of this property is really the first step in addressing the village's facilities needs," said Village Manager Jessica Frances at the Aug. 15 meeting of the village board.
Last year, Riverside completed an assessment of its municipal facilities and its consultant estimated that renovating and expanding facilities for the fire and police departments, central administrative office and the recreation department would cost between $24.5 and 28.5 million.
In addition to assuming the mortgage on 43 E. Quincy St. and related expenses, officials estimate that it will cost about $396,000 to renovate the buildings at the site, which include the main commercial property and a garage. There is also a parking lot, which was resurfaced in the past couple of years.
That renovation will be funded by the Department of Parks and Recreation, which levies its own taxes for operations. The department will pay the village $145,925 from its fund balance this year and then $25,000 per year for the next 10 years to reimburse the village for the cost of the renovations at 43 E. Quincy St.
With the acquisition of 43 E. Quincy St., the Riverside Department of Parks and Recreation will be able to expand offerings, cut down on costs for offsite facility rentals and provide space for special recreation programming that it presently can't accommodate.
The main floor of 43 E. Quincy St. will house a reception area, ADA-accessible restrooms and a large multi-purpose room for programming. The recreation department's administrative offices will move from the water tower facility to the second floor of a rear addition at 43 E. Quincy St.
The large garage will allow the department to store recreation equipment that's now housed at the Riverside train station and provide parking for its three vehicles – a pickup truck, a van and a trailer.
Other benefits of the village buying the property include creating a new revenue stream by renting out 43 E. Quincy St. for special events and allowing off-street public parking when the building isn't being used for recreation programming.
Frances said it's unclear exactly when the renovation of 43 E. Quincy St. will be complete, but she hoped it would be ready for use before the end of 2019.
Purchase of the Quincy Street property will allow the recreation department to transform its water tower space at 10 Pine Ave. into an early childhood center. Plans are to expand the department's KinderKids program, which serves kindergarten-age kids, and create a new KinderKids Junior program for kids ages 3 to 5. Early childhood classes would be offered throughout the day at the department's water tower campus.
Those early childhood programs would also be open to those participating in the West Suburban Special Recreation Association (WSSRA), which has committed to providing programming in Riverside, according to Frances.
Frances said that the village's acquisition of 43 E. Quincy St. will bring more foot and car traffic to East Quincy Street, which the village hopes blossoms into a more active commercial area.
The building at 43 E. Quincy St. served for many years as the Riverside American Legion hall before that organization donated the property to the village in 1968. Twenty years later, the village auctioned off the property, which is when Barr acquired it.
A micro-brewery in 2016 toyed with buying the property and the village talked about rezoning the property to accommodate that use, but Barr opted to sell to NW Construction.