Former Harvard Motorola campus sold to Las Vegas developers

A Las Vegas company closed Tuesday on the sale of Harvard's former Motorola campus, after years of uncertainty and multiple failed attempts by previous bidders to buy the site.

The new owner - Pinnacle Fund Management, an affiliate of a fellow Nevada group called CAI Investments, LLC - hopes to redevelop the property for future tenants, company representative Matthew Tucker said in an email Wednesday.

"We are very excited to work with the city and local community to find the highest and best use," Tucker said. "Right now we are exploring solar power solutions and plan to redevelop the space and plac[e] a tenant in that will create jobs and generate tax revenue for the local economy."

Tucker declined to say how much PFM paid for the site.

PMF officially closed the deal Tuesday with the U.S. Marshals Service. The most recent owner, Xiao Hua "Edward" Gong, bought the space in April 2016 at an online auction for $9.3 million. The Marshals Service was tasked with selling the property while a criminal case against Gong in Canada was ongoing.

Attempts to reach the Ontario Court of Justice for an update about Gong's criminal case were unsuccessful.

"At this juncture, my initial reaction is that things are moving in a positive direction, and we look forward to working with whoever ends up taking up occupancy," Harvard Mayor Mike Kelly said.

The 1.5 million-square-foot property that formerly housed a Motorola manufacturing and distribution site has been vacant for almost two decades and has been deteriorating throughout the years.

Recently, a Canadian company called Green Data Real Estate Inc. hoped to buy the more than 300-acre campus for use as a data center and rentable business spaces. They missed the final closing deadline in July, however. The property was "offered for sale again to a qualified buyer," according to an August report from the U.S. Marshals Service.

At the time, U.S. Department of Justice representative Mary Butler said a sale wasn't likely to be completed within the next 90 days.

Kelly heard from CAI Investment representatives about a month later, he said.

"A couple weeks ago they were in town to view the building and they asked lots of questions, but they didn't really at that time know exactly what they were going to do," Kelly said. "But they saw it as an opportunity for further development."

It's unclear when the property might be up and running again.

"We are in discussions with multiple different tenants, so depending on where we land with the type of use and build-out will dictate our final timeline," Tucker said.

Until recently, taxes on the campus, the largest taxpayer within the city of Harvard and Harvard School District 50, had been delinquent since 2017. That's not including a brief period during which an Ohio-based signage company fronted some of that money as they tried to buy the campus. Those payments, however, were recorded as a sale in error once the company backed out in 2020.

On Aug. 6, the Marshals Service put $500,000 toward those taxes using a portion of the nonrefundable money that Green Data already had paid toward the property. The remaining unpaid taxes, just short of $500,000, should be covered by a portion of Tuesday's sale.

That payment wasn't yet reflected on the McHenry County Treasurer's Office website Wednesday afternoon and multiple attempts to reach Treasurer Glenda Miller were unsuccessful.

The city has raised concerns throughout the years about the Harvard property's worsening state. Serious mold remediation and the replacement of the sprinkler system are chief among renovations that need to take place, county officials have said.

"We had a very short timeline with the U.S. Marshals, so we are still in the process of finalizing our budget," Tucker said. "We have been working with the city to develop a plan to bring the facility up to code in a phased approach."

CAI also placed a $5,000 bid Tuesday to buy Harvard's former police department building in the hopes of turning it into a "boutique hotel," Kelly said.

Tucker confirmed CAI's intentions for the property, noting that the city requires additional lodging.

"There is only one other hotel in the city, causing huge demand for another operator. The development, stabilization and operation of the hotel will generate tax revenue, increase tourism and create many jobs for the local economy," Tucker said. "With CAI's acquisition of the Motorola facility, we will already have boots on the ground in the city, making it feasible for us to begin work sooner rather than later."

CAI placed the lowest of three bids on the property, Kelly said. The mayor expects each of the bidders to present their plan to the city sometime in October, he said.

The vacant Motorola campus in Harvard has been sold to developers. Courtesy Shaw Media
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