Developer buying McDonald's site coveted by Oak Brook Park District

Oak Brook Park District's quest to buy and preserve roughly 34 acres of open space from McDonald's appears to have hit a dead end — even before voters go to the polls Tuesday to decide whether to authorize borrowing $17.9 million for the purchase.

Park officials learned Wednesday that PulteGroup Inc. has a contract to buy the coveted site at Jorie Boulevard and Kensington Road, just west of the former McDonald's campus.

Chicago-based Jones Lang LaSalle's land and development services team announced the deal and said Pulte plans to build 170 luxury townhouses in a gated community.

JLL Managing Director Scott Miller and Vice President Lindsey Fahey are representing McDonald's in the sale.

“This was a tremendous opportunity to take a very attractive parcel of land and bring a new for-sale residential concept to the Village of Oak Brook,” Miller said in a news release.

Company spokeswoman Lesley Long declined to comment on the sale price.

Pulte is one of the largest homebuilders in the country.

McDonald's Corp. Vice President Joe Endress said the company is excited to find a buyer.

“Just as we did with the former McDonald's Plaza, it was important to us that we find a buyer that could deliver an exceptional vision for the community, and we are thrilled to have found a buyer that is bringing an exciting residential vision to the current and future residents of Oak Brook,” he said in a statement.

Park officials and members of a residents group called Supporters of the Oak Brook Park Referendum are less enthused. They had stressed the need to acquire the land to, among other things, prevent additional development.

“We must act now to preserve these 34 acres in the heart of Oak Brook,” Ray Cesca, one of the resident group's co-chairmen, said in September. “This is our last chance to preserve a large parcel of open space and protect it from becoming a massive development.”

Officials initially approached McDonald's in 2016 to see if there was interest in donating the property to the park district, but the fast-food giant indicated the company would rather sell it, Executive Director Laure Kosey said. The park district held focus groups and community surveys showing “resounding” support for it trying to acquire the site, Kosey said.

“We're still going to referendum,” Kosey said Wednesday night. “We're going to let the residents decide on whether we should try to approach McDonald's and see if we can keep it open space.”

Known as the “McDonald's Soccer Fields,” the property has been used by a private soccer club. If voters approved the borrowing plan and the district acquired the site, it would continue using the property for soccer fields, trails and passive recreation.

The proposed increase on the Nov. 6 ballot would cost the owner of a $1 million home roughly $266 more a year in park district property taxes, officials said.

Kosey said the park district has confirmed with the village that no one has applied for a zoning change on the property, currently zoned for commercial uses with a special use allowing for recreation. An appraiser hired by the park district in August 2016 put the value of the land under the current zoning at $15.8 million, Kosey said.

“If they respond positively,” Kosey said of voters, “then we're hoping we can try to keep this open space.”

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