For 2nd time in 5 years, city selling land in Jefferson Park for $1
by BRIAN NADIG
The City of Chicago is planning to sell the former Jefferson Park firehouse at 4837-41 N. Lipps Ave. for $1 to a developer who wants to restore the 114-structure and covert it into a brewery and apartment complex.
In a social media post, the city Department of Planning claimed that the $1 selling price is appropriate due to the amount of lead-paint remediation that the project requires. The property has been appraised at about $200,000.
The Community Development Commission at its July 14 meeting authorized the city Department of Housing to enter into a negotiated sale with the developer, Tim Pomaville of Ambrosia Homes.
Under Pomaville’s proposal, a third floor would be added to the two-story structure to allow for a total of nine apartments on the upper two floors. The ground-floor brewery would be operated by Lake Effect Brewing, 4727 W. Montrose Ave.
Alderman James Gardiner (45th) said that while the project is welcomed by the community, he is concerned that the city wants to sell the property for $1 given its financial woes and that it did not conduct an open bidding process years ago.
“Because this started (with Ambrosia) three years ago, I’m not going to stand in the way of a proposal the community has favored,” said Gardiner, who has voiced support for the zoning change needed for the project.
Gardiner said that at the commission’s meeting he raised concerns about the financial challenges facing the city. “I wanted to get it out there that we have this elephant in the room, and yet we’re selling property for $1,” he said.
In 2017, former alderman John Arena held his own request for proposals for the site, receiving three applications and eventually recommending to the city that it sell to Ambrosia through a negotiated sale, according to documents that the city released through a Freedom of Information request.
The other option would have been for the city to issue its own request for proposals in which the city publicly advertises its redevelopment goals for the site and developers respond with an offering price and details of their proposal. Under a negotiated sale, the city enters talks with an interested buyer and then runs a legal notice in a newspaper advertising the planned sale, pending a 30-day window in which last-second proposals from other interested buyers can be submitted.
City officials reportedly are focused on Ambrosia’s plan, and any last-second proposal is expected to face an uphill battle.
This would not be the first time in recent years in which the city sells property in the Jefferson Park business district for $1.
A few years ago it sold two parcels, which the city had bought in 2006 for $1.46 million, to the Mega Group for $1. The land is now part of a four-story, mixed-use development at Lawrence and Laramie avenues.
The business district has been stagnant for years, with several vacant storefronts and empty lots.
Meanwhile, most of the nine apartments under Ambrosia’s plan would have one bedroom and one bathroom, with an approximate monthly rent of about $1,400, Pomaville said. The remaining units would have two bedrooms and two bathrooms with a a rent of about $2,100, he said.
In addition, the third-floor addition would be setback several feet so that it does not detract from the historic two-story look of the firehouse.