Business

Village seeks bids for former science center annex on Ridge downtown

An empty storefront in downtown Homewood could become a restaurant, but Homewood trustees urged residents with other ideas to step forward.

Homewood is seeking alternate bids on 2018-2020 Ridge Road,
formerly home of Karate Kids and briefly an annex to the
Homewood Science Center. A developer is interested in
turning the space into a restaurant.
(Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

The Homewood Board of Trustees approved an ordinance on May 14 directing staff to seek alternate bids for the village-owned property at 2018-2020 Ridge Road, formerly planned to be an annex for the Homewood Science Center.

In a memo to the board, Economic Development Director Angela Mesaros said a developer, Grace Yan Cui of Chicago Investment Group, has proposed to renovate the building. Because the property is in a tax increment financing district (TIF) the village has to offer an opportunity for other interested parties to bid.
Bids must be received at village hall by 5 p.m. Tuesday, June 11.

Trustee Lauren Roman asked what the village would do to advertise the property’s availability.

“I just want everybody who has interest in it to have the opportunity to know that it’s available,” she said. “So I would like to get the word out as much as we can.”

Trustee Allisa Opyd concurred.

“It is such a fantastic space. I’d like to see what others come up with as well,” she said.

Village staff subsequently posted the call for alternate bids on its Facebook page.

The property was donated to the village in June 2020 by Patricia Barnum. The village paid a nominal $10 for the property, which it intended to use as additional space for the Homewood Science Center.
The science center occupied the space briefly with a pop-up store, but that was removed when village staff discovered the building was not up to code.

In 2022, the village completed roof replacement, tuckpointing, rear deck removal, replacement of the rear door, and demolition of the interior space, but more work is needed before the building can be occupied, including ADA bathroom installation; asbestos remediation; and HVAC, plumbing, electrical, and gas upgrades.

The board approved a measure at its April 23 meeting to remove the property from the science center lease to make it available for commercial redevelopment.

Then-Trustee Anne Colton asked whether the village had done its due diligence before acquiring the property and wondered if it was safe for the brief occupancy by the science center.

“Did we know that ahead of time? Why didn’t we check on that ahead of time?” she said. “If we’re going to acquire property we should do an inspection. I think we need to improve our processes. Instead of making the decision and trying to figure out how to make it work.”

She suggested reviewing procedures to make sure the village knows what it’s getting when it purchases property.

Trustee Jay Heiferman countered that the village often purchases property that has problems in order to support redevelopment.

Mayor Rich Hofeld said the building was not unsafe but was not code compliant.

Public Works Director John Schaefer said the additional work could cost about $100,000.

In her memo, Mesaros noted that commercial development will benefit the village by returning the building to the tax rolls.

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