In a move that reflects the sagging housing market, Itasca officials have approved a plan to transform a mostly vacant condo building into a rental property.
A divided board of trustees approved the measure Tuesday, with trustees Marty Hower, Lucy Santorsola, Ellen Leahy and Frank Madaras voting in favor of conversion, and trustees Jeff Aiani and Mike Latoria opposing it.
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The decision echoed a recommendation from the village's plan commission, which last month supported the proposal in a split vote.
As a result, the building at 2 Itasca Place, near Nordic Road and Route 53, will be converted from condos to apartment units. An attorney for the building's developers, Itasca Properties, LLC, said they have been unable to sell 63 of the 70 units in the five-story building due to the struggling real estate market.
The building sits next to another 70-unit, five-story condo at 1 Itasca Place, where most units are occupied. That building will remain as condominiums and owners in the other building have been given the opportunity to move there, according to village documents.
The village board's divided vote reflects the voices of about 50 residents who discussed the issue for more than two hours Tuesday. Many of the same people spoke in January before the plan commission.
Most were residents of 1 Itasca Place speaking in favor of the plan, which Itasca Properties attorney Paul Conarty said will "prevent the south unit from becoming derelict ... forcing the unit owners in the north building to shoulder the maintenance costs for the entire project."
But a minority voiced opposition with concerns that rental units would cause the neighborhood to decline.
Ultimately, however, Village President Jeff Pruyn said the conversion is "the best outcome, given all the facts."
"It gives the owners of the condos control that the outside of the units are maintained to their standards," Pruyn said.
The empty building was sold to Naperville-based Marquette Companies earlier this month. The group will allow the condo association at 1 Itasca Place to maintain the exterior of both buildings, but will pay 50 percent of the costs, officials said.
Pruyn took issue with the sale to Marquette, however, saying he was upset the village learned of the transaction through a real estate journal rather than directly from Itasca Properties.
"I didn't know the sale was imminent," Pruyn said. "Part of their reason for requesting (rental) zoning was because it was needed to facilitate the sale, yet the sale was already made. That was my concern.
"Still, the zoning was in the best interest of our residents … otherwise it would have made it harder to maintain these properties as a whole."
Pruyn also said the building owners -- whether Marquette or Itasca Properties -- could have rented out the condos either way. But changing the zoning to create apartments and striking a deal for property maintenance with Marquette was the best option.
"I think Marquette will be more successful renting the units with the special-use zoning," Pruyn said.
Under Marquette's ownership, all units will be rented at 2 Itasca Place for an average of $2,300 per month.
Conarty, who helped facilitate the sale from Itasca Properties to Marquette, said the company's goal is to eventually convert the building back into condos once the housing market recovers.