CTA Conceals Identity of Potential Buyer of Vacant Lot Next to Paulina Station

By Geoff Dankert | Friday, June 22, 2012

CTA has reportedly reached a tentative agreement to sell the property next to the Paulina "L" station at 3400 N. Lincoln Avenue. Credit: Geoff Dankert

A new chapter in the saga of the long-vacant plot of land next to the CTA’s Paulina Brown Line station is about to begin, following word that a prospective buyer has reached a tentative agreement to purchase the property from the transit agency.

Roscoe View Journal has learned that the sale agreement for 3400 N. Lincoln Ave. is set to be put before the Transit Board for approval at its next meeting on July 13. A CTA spokeswoman refused to confirm or deny information related to a possible sale, saying merely that the agency is “still finalizing details of the matter.” Neither Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), whose ward currently includes the parcel, nor representatives of the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce were aware of a potential sale agreement when contacted by RVJ.

The terms of the tentative agreement have not been disclosed, nor has the identity of the potential buyer. The CTA has cited exemptions to the state’s Freedom of Information Act in denying a request from RVJ for information related to specific bids for the Lincoln Avenue property.

If the Board approves the deal, it would be a major victory for the CTA, which purchased the home of the former Just Tires store for $2.25 million in 2006 as part of the Brown Line renovation project. The agency first attempted to sell the property following the re-opening of the Paulina station in 2009, but the flatlining housing market and recession scared away prospective buyers and lenders. The agency contracted with commercial real estate giant Jones Lang LaSalle to sell the property and bids were due last month, with each bidder required to present a deposit of $10,000.

At one point, members of the Lakeview Chamber’s Special Service Area considered bidding for the property and turning it into a park. The SSA’s bid would have involved a complicated transaction involving green space promoters Openlands, and supporters even released elaborate renditions of what they called “Paulina Park.” Ultimately, the Chamber opted not to pursue a bid in the face of opposition from Ald. Waguespack, among others, who advocated for a development that would generate property tax revenue.

Another potential bidder, JAB Real Estate, debated making a play for the property with an eye toward a mixed condo/retail development. However, CEO Frank Campise told RVJ that he decided against submitting a bid. “We were not able to get a return that was adequate,” he said, citing the price of the land, construction and needed financing to complete the project. “It’s a sizable deal to do.”

For neighbors, the only noticeable change to the property in recent days has been the disappearance of the “For Sale” sign that appeared prior to the bidding deadline. The sole activity on the land for months has been the pre-dawn foraging of some of the neighborhood’s rabbits. However, that may soon be replaced with actual construction, and Heather Way of the Lakeview Chamber said she hopes it’s soon.

“We don’t want it to be vacant,” she said, in what’s become a familiar refrain for residents of West Lakeview. “We don’t want to look at it any more.”

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