Mundelein District 75 looks to raise funds by selling headquarters
The time may have come when an old building in downtown Mundelein is more valuable as a commercial business than a school district office.
That's the thinking of Mundelein Elementary District 75, which authorized an appraisal of its longtime administrative office on the southwest corner of Route 45 (Lake Street) and Park Street.
"The (school) board basically has given me the authority to say, 'This is for sale. Who's interested?'" Superintendent Andy Henrikson said. "It just seems like the right time."
Henrikson said the district has kept expenses in check since he arrived four years ago. Savings from "creative cost reductions" haven't affected student programs, he said, but selling the administration building could generate income to use for students and programs.
School board President Kevin Holly said the idea was considered years ago but the market wasn't good.
"The biggest thing is recently Mundelein is trying to entice more business to move downtown. Apparently, we have something that's really attractive," Holly said.
Mundelein long has been trying to increase use and interest in the downtown area and has seen a number of small businesses open in the past year.
In January, the village added to its basket of incentives by creating a new grant program to encourage renovation of properties in what is considered an important gateway across Route 45 and south of the District 75 building.
"I think this would be a fabulous restaurant (space), frankly," Henrikson said. "We're not going to list it (immediately). We'll see if the village has enough connections to find a buyer."
Scott Adams, president/CEO of the Gurnee, Mundelein, Libertyville, Green Oaks Chamber of Commerce, said the village has been working with downtown businesses.
"Just in general, commercial real estate seems to be better than it was the last five or six years," he said. "A building like that needs to be on the tax rolls."
The district is tax-exempt, but property taxes from a new commercial use potentially could offset rent elsewhere, Holly said. The former Kirk of the Lakes Presbyterian Church property adjacent to Mundelein High School is a possibility, according to Henrikson.
It's hard to tell after more than a century of alterations and expansions, but the District 75 administrative office was built in 1891 as a general store called Newton & Co. It also was used as a barbershop and apartments before opening in 1943 as a branch of the Libertyville Township Library, which became the Fremont Public Library District in 1955.
The library operated there until voters approved a tax hike for a new building, opened in January 2001 on Midlothian Road north of Route 176. District 75, which had its offices in trailers at Carl Sandburg Middle School, bought the 13,800-square-foot building from the library district in late 1999 for $350,000.
"We're going to get an appraisal of the building and take it from there," Holly said.