Oakbrook Terrace Sears Homart home avoids wrecking ball
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A notable Sears Roebuck Homart kit home has avoided a date with the wrecking ball thanks to a tentative agreement between the Oakbrook Terrace City Council and the community's fledgling historical society.
The council agreed Tuesday to sell the building to the society for a nominal fee and to consider paying $500 a month toward the operation and maintenance of the house for at least two years.
The deal will allow the society to continue using the house to display its collection of city artifacts with an eye toward eventually renovating the structure.
The city attorney will prepare documents for the sale that will be voted on at the council's March 26 or April 9 meeting, City Manager John Carpino said. The vote will be taken before the makeup of the council changes after the April 9 election.
"It's all favorable. It's moving forward in the right direction," Carpino said.
The sale agreement will include a provision that if the historical society is not able to care for the house, ownership will revert to the city, he said.
The city purchased the house at 17W245 16th Street in 2008 for $330,000 with the intention of tearing it down for a water retention area when a new police station is built.
Carpino said water retention for the new station now will be provided by an underground tank when work on the station begins this summer. Mayor Tony Ragucci said at a previous meeting that the cost of underground water retention will be about $380,000 as opposed to $123,000 for a retention pond.
"It's going to be more costly to hold the water underground," Carpino said.
But Ragucci has supported saving the house, which was built around 1950 by the husband of former longtime city clerk Lorraine Fik. Architectural historian Rebecca Hunter of Elgin has said it is only one of six documented Sears Homart homes in the country.
Carpino said Ragucci also is willing for the city to pay $500 a month or $6,000 a year toward maintenance, utilities and insurance for the house for at least two years, and would consider extending the support for two years after that. Expenses for the house's operation will be considered during budget discussions on March 13 and 20, and would be included in the budget adopted April 23, Carpino said.
Historical society Director Bob Shanahan said the historical society hopes the city will pay the maintenance cost out of its tourism fund gained from hotel-motel tax. Supporters have said they expect the house to be a tourist attraction.
City support for the maintenance of the house would not include the cost for renovations to return it to its original form. The historical society doesn't yet have cost estimates on the improvements, which would include removing vinyl siding and rebuilding a trellised porch, but plans to do fundraising and hopes to gain corporate sponsors to help with the renovations, Shanahan said.
"We still have a battle ahead of us," he said. "(But) we think with the city's help we can do this."
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