Former tenant questions Dist. 203 use of commercial building
When Naperville Unit District 203 bought a commercial building on 5th Avenue in late 2012, the rationale was to save money over time by no longer having to lease several spaces it already was using.
But a former tenant of the property at 700-722 W. 5th Ave. says the district left money on the table by not renewing leases held by other businesses after it bought the building.
Joe Galetto of Naperville said he felt "kicked out" when the district did not renew his lease for the home health care business he and his wife had been running out of the 5th Avenue location for 25 years.
While the district is using the building for a printing shop, storage and the Connections program for students with special needs who have finished high school but not yet turned 22, Superintendent Dan Bridges said administrators are awaiting results of a facilities master planning process before determining long-term uses for the space.
In the meantime, Galetto said officials should have renewed his lease and the leases of other tenants, which he estimated could bring in up to $180,000.
"Since they don't know what they're going to do with that building, it's a mess," Galetto said.
Bridges said the district honored all terms of the two leases in place when the school board agreed to buy the building in December 2012 for $2.9 million. Officials did not renew the leases in order to retain flexibility to use the structure, located across the street from Naperville North High School, for its own purposes as needs arise.
"We didn't want to commit ourselves to a lease that would slow down or inhibit our ability to use the building ourselves long-term," Bridges said.
Continuing to lease out the spaces would not have been as lucrative for the district as Galetto estimated, spokeswoman Faith Behr said.
Between December 2012 and the end of June 2013, the district received $17,733 in rental income from tenants. Between July 1, 2013, and now, the district has received $21,371 in rent payments, bringing the total to $39,104.
The district only used three or four spaces in the 10-unit building when it first took ownership, but now is using about 90 percent of the area. Officials had been renting 16,935 square feet for roughly $180,000 a year before buying the property.
Two spaces were combined into one to house the Connections program, which helps special needs students transition from high school until age 22, when they become too old for public school. Combining the spaces cost $49,619 and renovations to install handicapped accessible doors cost $18,304, Behr said.
Those projects were two major components of $309,705 the district has spent on repairs and maintenance to the building during the past year and a half. The majority of expenditures went toward repaving the asphalt parking lot for $207,915. Other expenses included repairing underground power for parking lot lights for roughly $9,000 and fixing locks, keys and doors for $5,900, Behr said.
Galetto also questioned these expenditures, saying district officials are showing "no forethought" by renovating the facility now before a final use has been chosen.
Behr said the district's facilities master plan will focus first on instructional buildings and then on other structures such as the property on 5th Avenue. Bridges said the next step in the planning process will come May 19, when the school board will hear an update about a conditions assessment that has been completed.