Dist. 59 to buy former Wellington restaurant site for $1.8 million
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A prime commercial property fronting Arlington Heights Road could soon be off the tax rolls.
Elk Grove Township Elementary District 59 has agreed to purchase the former Wellington restaurant site for $1.8 million, officials said Tuesday, describing the deal as too good to pass up.
The district initially will use the site, which is adjacent to the cramped administration center, for training and meeting space while developing a longer range plan for the site.
The property's was listed on LoopNet, a commercial real estate website, for little more than $2 million, but the mortgage is $4 million, District 59 interim Superintendent Mark Friedman said.
"It's so under water that the deal we got was just amazing," he said. "The opportunity for us to get it, and then do some planning -- the timing was right."
The Wellington, an iconic Arlington Heights restaurant, which had been operating since July 1983, closed last August. Business had been declining for years and the property initially was put up for sale in 2009.
The District 59 school board voted Monday night to begin the process of acquiring the 22,000-square-foot-property at 2121 S. Arlington Heights Road.
District 59's 19,000-square-foot administration center sits adjacent to the property. The district has been dealing with cramped office and meeting space for several years, while parking at the administration center is not sufficient for the number of meetings held there, officials said.
Next door to the administration building is a 10,000-square-foot warehouse and maintenance garage used to store salt, sand, heavy equipment and trucks. School buses are stored in the rear of the administration building.
Friedman said the district already has an agreement with the bank that owns Wellington to allow use of its parking lot for overflow parking during activities at the administration center. The district currently maintains the parking lot and plows it in winter, he added.
"We own the whole strip of parking spaces behind the building," Friedman said. "We surround it on three sides and we've pretty much looked at a situation here where we have no extra space. Our meeting space is inadequate. We're tight. The schools were never built for training facilities."
Whether the district renovates the Wellington or tears is down depends on the condition of the building, Friedman said.
"It's been abandoned for quite a while," he said. "We've had limited access to the building."
District 59 could refurbish the building, which would take planning and time, or begin using it immediately as long as the heating and ventilation systems are working, Friedman added.
The Wellington's banquet room seats 250 people, with smaller banquet rooms seating 70 people each, a dining room for 230-250 people, and parking for roughly 300 vehicles.
Charles Witherington-Perkins, Arlington Heights director of planning and community development, said village staff met with District 59 officials last week to talk about the property, which is currently zoned commercial. Depending on its future use, the building could need significant changes, which would require village approval, he said.
"We're looking forward to working with District 59 on a long-term redevelopment plan for that area," he said, expressing a hope that some business use might be part of the plan. "Obviously, it's a very visible portion of the (Arlington Heights Road) corridor."
It could take up to two months for District 59 to close on the sale.
A majority of the funding for the purchase will come out of the district's operations and maintenance fund reserve, which stands about $6 million in surplus. A portion of the money could come out of the district's working cash fund, which has a $19 million reserve.
"All of our funds have a healthy surplus," Friedman said.
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