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Oswego seeks to identify downtown developer : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Oswego seeks to identify downtown developer
Firm would oversee redevelopment of old village hall site, three adjoining parcels

by John Etheredge


After many months of discussions, the Oswego Village Board recently authorized village staff to seek Requests for Qualifications (RFQs) from developers interested in re-developing four adjoining, village-owned properties in the downtown.

The properties are located in what village officials describe as the "Old Village Hall Block" bounded by Main, Van Buren, Adams and Washington (U.S. Route 34) streets.

The properties include the old village hall at 113 Main Street, the former Oswego Township Hall at 63 Washington Street, and two vacant parcels located behind the two buildings.

The old village hall has stood vacant since 2008 when work was completed on the new village hall across the Fox River at 100 Parkers Mill. The old township hall was most recently used as the offices of the Oswego Chamber of Commerce.

Village officials are scheduled to open the RFQs on Friday, April 11 at 11 a.m.

The purpose of the RFQs is to help village officials identify qualified individuals and/or firms that will be considered to oversee the redevelopment of the four village-owned properties.

Steve Jones, village administrator, said the village has been contacted by developers interested in the properties previously, but he is uncertain how many RFQs will be received.

"If we get just one and it is a quality one, I'll be happy," he said.

Jones said the village is seeking the RFQs in an effort to spur development in the village's downtown.

Noting the old village hall has stood vacant for the past several years, he said, "We want to call attention to what is a new redevelopment opportunity in our downtown. The property itself is basically underutilized and is now wasted space."

Jones noted that the village's status as the fourth fastest growing community in the Chicago area should help spur interest in the downtown and the project. Developers, he said, usually are not interested in investing in communities where growth has stagnated.

Ultimately, the re-development of the properties would benefit the village and its taxpayers by placing the properties back on the tax rolls and providing a source of new sales tax and other revenues, according to Jones.

Upon opening the RFQs, Jones said the village will organize a review committee to determine the most qualified firms. Those firms, will in turn, be invited to submit Requests for Proposals (RFPs). According to the village's RFQ, the RFP process "will consider the submittal that provides the financial capabilities and greatest positive impact on the downtown area."

Jones noted the village's RFQ identifies the "ultimate proposal" for the properties as one that would "provide new mixed use development appropriately scaled to the land area of village-owned lots."

According to the RFQ, "The development would include one or more multi-story structures (up to a maximum of four stories) fronting on Washington Street and/or Main Street. Surface or structure parking would be provided in the interior of the block, offering public and private parking opportunities."

Concerning the developer, the RFQ notes the village is seeking a firm that has the financial capability to successfully complete the project and has completed projects of similar "scope, value and quality".

The RFQ adds: "High priority will be given to a developer that can efficiently negotiate with abutting property owners to realize the full potential of this site area."

Upon the selection of a qualified developer, the village would negotiate a redevelopment agreement for the property with the firm, according to Jones. The agreement will be subject to the review and a final vote of approval by the village board.

The actual redevelopment of the property will likely take some time.

Jones said his "best case scenario" would have construction starting one year from now.

He explained that scenario would involve the village selecting a firm through the RFQ process and completing negotiations and approving a development agreement this fall.

"Potentially we could see a spring '15 start (of construction) but that assumes everything would work," he said.

Village President Brian LeClercq said he is believes that by seeking the RFQs the village may help stimulate developer interest in the downtown.

"Hopefully this will at least help spur on the conversation," he said.

LeClercq noted that over the years he and other village officials have discussed both large and smaller scale re-development plans for the downtown.

LeClercq said he personally would like to see a re-development plan that would be on the scale and compatible to the existing downtown area.

"I don't think we need something with 500 units or whatever we've talked about before," he said, adding, "That's why I'm looking forward to this (process). I want to see if there is anything that comes in that fits our downtown and we can all agree on."

Preserve old
village hall fašade?

Jones acknowledged the village's historic preservation commission has urged the village board to preserve the old village hall.

The building has fallen into disrepair since it was vacated by village staff nearly six years ago. Outside, the roof leaks and the windows have been boarded up. Mold has also been found inside the building.

Jones said the village has shown the old village hall to people interested in using it as a business location. However, he said everyone who has looked at it has concluded it would be too costly to renovate for a new use.

Jones, however, said in preparing the RFQ village staff included a provision that states the village is seeking development proposals for the property that have "the potential to preserve all or a portion of the old village hall building fašade."

The building was constructed following the passage of a $10,000 referendum in March 1921, according to articles published that year in the Kendall County Record, publishers of the Ledger-Sentinel.

As originally designed, the building housed the Oswego Volunteer Fire Department and the office of the village's water department. The 1921 referendum also provided funding for the village to drill a water well on the site and install water mains.

The building housed the fire department until the early 1950s when a new, larger station was constructed one block north on Main Street. From the mid-1950s to 1991, the building housed village governmental offices and the village police department. Village police relocated to their current station on U.S. Route 34 across from Fox Bend Golf Course in late 1991. From the mid-1980s through the 1990s the building was expanded and its interior reconfigured multiple times to accommodate the village's growing staff.

"Architectural Resources in Oswego, Illinois," a survey of buildings in the village prepared for the village's historic preservation commission in 2009, rated the village hall as being a "historically significant structure."

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