Grandt's station owner says Arlington Heights Park District had chances to buy property
While Arlington Heights Park District officials say they were "ghosted" during negotiations over the sale of Grandt's Shell service station, owner Craig Grandt says he gave parks officials multiple last-chance opportunities before he struck a deal with Mariano's.
"We've owned it 55 years. I think after that, I have a right to do whatever I wish to do with the property," said Grandt, the second-generation owner of the Northwest Highway station known for its iconic rooftop rocket.
"I'm sorry. If you really want the property bad, then go after it," he added. "But don't sit there and make a big stink after the fact when you low-balled it and think everything should be for free."
His comments come after the park board sent village officials a letter that said the nature of negotiations with Grandt were "falsely depicted" during a July 22 plan commission meeting.
The village advisory panel unanimously endorsed Mariano's proposal to convert the mom-and-pop station into the grocer's new fuel center, saying previous real estate negotiations between the district and Grandt's were out of the commission's purview. A final decision is in the hands of the village board next month.
Upon learning of Grandt's intention to sell last October, park board President Maryfran Leno said the district made an initial offer within 18% of asking price. After it was rejected, the board made an offer within 8% of the original price, and also agreed to pay for underground fuel tanks to be removed and a required environmental study.
Grandt's broker responded with a counteroffer that decreased the asking price by 1.5%, which the district agreed to, Leno said.
But the district never received a requested letter of intent or any follow-up response, officials said.
"We were ghosted," according to the letter from the five-member elected board to village officials.
"In all negotiations, you don't automatically go in full price," Leno added. "On top of that, we're a local taxing agency. ... I don't think it's really fair to paint the picture that we low-balled. Our job is to look at the current market and current value, and we made a fair offer. We did turn around and negotiated up."
Grandt said he first sent his broker to the park district before putting the property on the open market, but officials came back with "a very low-ball figure." After turning down the offer, Grandt's broker put the property on the market, and three days later, Mariano's submitted a bid, Grandt said.
He says he made a counteroffer that Mariano's accepted, but before signing a contract, he asked his broker to reach out to the park district again.
"I told my broker go back, tell them we have a bona fide offer in writing, and see what can they do," Grandt said. "They still came back low."
Grandt said his broker went back to the district one last time, but never heard back.
Neither Grandt nor park district brass would disclose exact numbers.
In their letter to village leaders, the park board argues it's the community's "last chance" to preserve the 18,150-square-foot property, which neighbors Recreation Park. Maintaining the site as parkland would fulfill the park district's master plan and the village's Hickory-Kensington Area Plan, they say.
Grandt said he did all he could to come to terms with the district.
"I have to think about my family and my wife and my retirement," he said. "The bottom line is my family comes first before the Arlington Heights Park District."