Advice to commercial property owners on pending Arlington Park sale: Don't sell cheap
Having the Chicago Bears for neighbors could be exciting, says longtime Arlington Heights dentist Peter Kics, whose Westgate Dental Care along Euclid Avenue stands in the shadow of Arlington International Racecourse.
Having the Bears in his backyard also could be profitable. If a stadium replaces the racetrack, Kics' lot could be a parking option for fans on game days. Better still, the sale of the 326-acre racetrack could ignite a development boon.
Churchill Downs Inc. announced the sale of the 94-year-old track in February.
The Bears are among several groups vying to purchase the facility. Among the interested parties is former track President Roy Arnold, who wants to preserve horse racing there. Chicago-based Glenstar Properties and Schaumburg-based UrbanStreet Group LLC also have submitted bids.
Kics said he intends to stay in the dream dental office he built 3½ years ago, even if new owners of Arlington Park offer to buy him out. For commercial property owners tempted to accept such an offer, if one is made, commercial real estate agent Mike Velasco has this advice: Don't sell cheap.
"Besides the tax dollars, (the pending sale) is great news for the village, for commercial owners and for their tenants," Velasco said, adding that increased traffic and visibility could make commercial space more valuable, allowing landlords to raise rents.
Moreover, if the Bears bought the land, they might elect to buy up surrounding properties as the Ricketts family did when it bought the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field, said Velasco, of Coldwell Banker Realty The Groves in Long Grove.
Commercial property owners "are in a good position," he said. "There is no reason to sell cheap," Velasco said. "You want to see what the plan is for developing the site. At that point, you can see what (the new owners') plan will be initially and what it will be down the road."
Hold out, he advises, and wait to see what happens.
Farmers Insurance agent Kenneth C. More doesn't think new owners would want to purchase the property he's owned for nearly 40 years along Northwest Highway and Warren Avenue (near Metra's Arlington Park commuter station).
"I don't know how desirable this small piece of property would be," said More of the sliver of land occupied by an architecturally eye-catching, two-story office building whose back wall marks the property line. Still, the possibility of the Bears moving in across the street is exciting to him.
"It would give the area a tremendous boost," he said.
Kics said the racetrack has been part of the community and "we've enjoyed our time there for many years."
"Now that the decision (to sell) is done, it's a win-win, not just for Arlington Heights but for the entire Northwest suburbs," he said. "Whatever the outcome, we're excited to see what it will bring."
Ronela Fusha, whose Fuschay Beauty Bar is in the Arlington Park Plaza shopping center at the intersection of Wilke Road and Northwest Highway, just east of the racetrack property, is less enthusiastic about the Bears' potential purchase of the racetrack. Depending on development proposals, Fusha, who moved from downtown Arlington Heights to that location six years ago, says she might not renew her lease.
"We have to trust (village officials)," she said. "They will do the right thing."
If the Bears do relocate, the businesses likely to benefit most will be restaurants, entertainment venues and hotels, predicts Randy Olczyk, president and principal of Palatine-based Chicago Commercial Real Estate. Olczyk doesn't think the team would purchase surrounding properties because the site itself is so large. But he agrees having an NFL team in the neighborhood will benefit commercial owners.
"Generally speaking, it's going to be a positive for surrounding commercial real estate," he said. "The more traffic you have, the more business tenants can pull in, the higher the rent landlords can charge."
The racetrack's sale "is probably one of the most exciting propositions I've heard in a long time," said Olczyk, adding towns along the Metra line likely will benefit.
"It opens up a lot of additional doors for commerce along the train line," he said.
Charles Witherington-Perkins, Arlington Heights' director of planning and community development, said any development will complement the community, including the downtown just two miles to the east.
Arlington Park "is a prime piece of real estate and a great opportunity to create a dynamic redevelopment," Witherington-Perkins said.