Wheeling wins bid for Wickes site

  • Wheeling has purchased the vacant Wickes Furniture site that went up for bankruptcy court auction last week.

      Wheeling has purchased the vacant Wickes Furniture site that went up for bankruptcy court auction last week. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
By Nadia Malik
Daily Herald Staff
Published11/19/2008 12:02 AM

Wheeling has taken control of the development of a proposed Town Center with the purchase of the empty Wickes Furniture site at what village officials are calling a bargain price.

The $3.775 million deal was approved unanimously by the village board Monday. The village participated in a bidding process for the site at 351 W. Dundee Road last week; its bid was accepted this week when a bankruptcy court judge approved the sale.

 

Village Manager Mark Rooney said the purchase should close by mid-December.

Wheeling's comprehensive plan calls for a mixed use development of commercial and residential property. The site is integral to the downtown area, or Town Center, that the board wants to create on Dundee Road and around the train station.

"I think what the village did was being proactive," Acting Village President Dean Argiris said. "Today is a buyer's market. We're fortunate to get that as a steal."

More than two years ago, when the property was up for sale, offers ranged as high as $12 million, Rooney said. Even last year, developers bid $9 million, and the property was appraised near that price earlier this year, just a month before Wickes filed for bankruptcy. However, those offers were contingent on getting zoning changes from the village. Wheeling didn't have to deal with contingencies when bidding last week.

The money will come from tax increment financing reserves; the property has been part of a TIF district since 2003. The village board agreed to let Rooney bid on the site last week, setting a ceiling of less than $4 million.

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The property, which housed a furniture store and the chain's headquarters, has been vacant since February but has gathered the attention of developers for years.

Most recently, the park district was interested in the 11-acre site, which stirred some controversy with the village, since the property is integral to its development plans. However, the park district did not take part of the auction last week.

Argiris said he has approached the district to work with the village on an appropriate use for the acreage. If the village decides on senior housing, for example, it may be prudent to bring the senior center to that area instead of to the park district, as has been discussed.

Village officials said they were afraid that if Wheeling did not take control of the property, the property would sit undeveloped for years, much like the former Kmart site has.

Rooney said he hopes to see construction on the site by this time next year, hopefully with a "medium box" retailer, such as Best Buy or CVS Pharmacy. Argiris said it's possible to have a developer hired in the next six months.

"Instead of making money for somebody else, we're doing something for ourselves," he said.

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