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Downers Grove

Back to drawing board for Civic Center proposal

Village Council to take up issue after April election

A proposal to sell a portion of the Downers Grove Civic Center property as part of a plan to build a new village hall and police station fell through recently when the developer suddenly reneged on the agreement it had reached with the village.
A proposal to sell a portion of the Downers Grove Civic Center property as part of a plan to build a new village hall and police station fell through recently when the developer suddenly reneged on the agreement it had reached with the village.

DOWNERS GROVE – Downers Grove officials are stunned after a Mokena-based real estate firm suddenly backed out of its offer to purchase and develop a part of the Civic Center property.

The village released a statement Feb. 21 on its website that Location Finders International is no longer interested in revamping a part of the Civic Center with a DuPage Medical Group office building.

LFI’s decision put plans for the construction of a new village hall and police station on hold.

Village Communications Director Doug Kozlowski and Commissioner Bill White said LFI hardly gave any reasons for their decision.

“My understanding is that they are not looking to negotiate further,” White said. “They’re just out.”

“I don’t know what else to say other than I’m frustrated,” Commissioner Nicole Walus said. “I’m disappointed for our police officers, for our staff.”

The plan called for LFI to buy five acres on the west end of the Civic Center’s property for $8 million and build a 50,000- to 60,000-square-foot medical facility. Nearly two months after an agreement between LFI and the village, LFI stopped work on the development, according to the news release.

“Everyone at the village is extremely disappointed with LFI’s abrupt and inexcusable abandonment of this project and the public-private partnership that it entailed,” Mayor Martin Tully said in the release. “We expected and trusted LFI and DMG to fully honor the terms of the offer that they submitted to us just a few short weeks ago.”

White and Walus both echoed Tully’s sentiments.

“It’s very disappointing to me because the offer that we’d approved satisfied all of my concerns for paying for the new village hall and a new police station facilities that the village desperately needs,” White said. “I mean, we absolutely, desperately need to solve the police and village hall issue.”

“You know, it felt really nice to feel like we had solved the problem,” Walus said. “We were going to do something without raising property taxes.”

The village aimed to use money from the sale of land and property taxes to pay for the project, and since LFI’s withdrawal, it has stopped all work, the release stated.

Just days after the village’s announcement Feb. 21, White took to Facebook to break down his thoughts and encouraged the council to rethink a previous town home option as a viable solution.

In 2017, commissioners discussed a plan to build 57 town houses on the Civic Center property, which would ultimately help fund the proposed village complex. White noted that idea is similar to LFI’s offer and suggested via Facebook that “the village should move forward swiftly to gather bids” from prospective town home developers “and then move forward swiftly to implement that option.” 

The Downers Grove Council will reconvene on the issue as part of long-range planning in May.

By that time, the council will have new commissioners on board, White warned. Two of the commissioners, Marge Earl and Bob Barnett, are running for mayor, while five candidates, including Walus, an incumbent, are vying for three commissioners’ seats.

“In two and a half months, three of us currently on the council will be gone,” White said. “Therefore, we really can’t – and shouldn’t – do anything between now and then.

“After I leave council, I still live in and vote in Downers Grove. I will very much want the next council to immediately look into pursuing the town home option because we need the facilities and to develop the land with something that can generate many millions of dollars.”

Representatives from Location Finders International could not be reached for comment. Representatives from DuPage Medical Group declined to comment on the issue.

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