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A 9-Story Office Tower for Beatty Lumber Property?

Mayor accuses village manager of holding secret meeting with developers.

Mayor Dave Heilmann had terse words for a possible 9-story development on the site of a former lumberyard that has been a blight on the neighborhood for the past seven years.

Heilmann’s remarks came at the end of his president’s report at the meeting on Tuesday, where he also accused Village Manager Larry Deetjen of holding a secret meeting with the developers who now own the property.

A conceptual sketch of a 9-story office tower on the former Beatty Lumber property at 9537 S. 52nd Ave. was presented at the village board’s finance committee meeting on Feb. 8.

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Developers Tony Ruh and Karl Shea, who developed the new Bally BFit Center at 10201 S Cicero Ave., purchased the former lumberyard for $775,000 in October, according to Cook County property records.

The mayor said he met with the developers in November, where he had made it clear they were to work with residents of the 96th Street and 52nd Avenue neighborhood in coming up with plans for redeveloping the property.

“I told them I didn’t want them to get caught in the crosshairs,” Heilmann said.

Recalling a proposal for a similar tower development for the former lumberyard several years ago, Heilmann said that residents were opposed to the idea of an office building in a residential area.

“I told them, ‘please work with residents. We need to have open communication,’” the mayor continued. “I could not figure out for the life of me how they could come back and say after that meeting they had a 9-story structure that was possibly acceptable to the village.”

It was only after asking village staff to produce any communications that the developers had with the village, when he learned of Deetjen’s offsite meeting on Jan. 27.

“[The developers] said they wanted to meet [the village manager] before they talked to the mayor,” Heilmann alleged. “The village manager sent an email back saying he would meet them outside of the office face to face.”

“It was never disclosed to me,” the mayor continued. “I sat down and talked to the developers for over an hour which means they lied to me. Then I find out that they were told on Jan. 27 that a 9-story structure was acceptable—even up to 13 stories if the architecture is right.”

Expressing his disappointment, Heilmann told village trustees he didn’t want to have a situation where, after a meeting he had to discuss the old Beatty property “someone is going behind my back having meeting out of [village hall] purposely in order to have a discussion on what I’m going to talk to them about and then find out that we’re working directly opposite of each other and there’s no communication.”

The mayor added that Trustee Bob Streit (Dist. 3) was also opposed to a tower at that location in his district because height was an issue in the last redevelopment proposal.

“I don’t want to start a fight,” Heilmann said. “I hope that this just ends it and that we move forward … All I ask is that this type of conduct can’t happen … I’m telling and asking the board, please do everything you can to listen to that group of people over there because a 9- or 13-story tower—we can’t have that.”

Ruh told Patch last week that he had his partner still didn’t have a final drawing but that “it wasn’t limited to nine stories.”

“It’s bigger,” Ruh said. “It’s going to be whatever it needs to make the development work.”

Deetjen immediately went into executive session after the open board meeting. In an email to Patch late Tuesday evening, the village manager denied there had been a  "secret meeting." He said it was still too early to tell what the development would be.

“The market will help shape the proposal and all [the developers] are doing now is ‘conceptually’ looking at alternative scenarios,” Deetjen wrote.

Although a 13-story building is unlikely at the Beatty location, Deetjen added that there were already two 13-story buildings in Oak Lawn.

“[It’s] too early to determine building height and mass. I will say, however, that height allows one to get more green and open space,” Deetjen said.

The village manager added that citizens would be involved in product input in the development project’s early stages.

Knowing is half the battle February 15, 2012 at 07:04 PM
According to the Illinois Open Meetings Act this type of discussion belongs in open session, unless the village owns the land. Based on what gets leaked out of the executive sessions the entire village board (mayor included) and the manager need a refreasher course on the Act. Google - (5 ILCS 120/) Open Meetings Act
Hctap February 15, 2012 at 07:05 PM
You would never get anything done unless you have a person who can respond and understand the demands of the private sector development. No problem with Heilmann stirring the pot a little since he is concerned with 3rd District voters (now that Jane Quinlan is interested in running for Mayor and an ally of Streit). Larry keep responding to all inquiries and make it happen (can't blame him for doing his job!) Jane Quinlan what is your position on this? Answer: I really don't want to get in the middle. Comment: You already are!
Knowing is half the battle February 15, 2012 at 07:21 PM
I haven't seen anyone here disagree that the area needs to be re-developed and I agree that this plan, as any other, needs to go through the correct process and feedback needs to be taken from all involved parties. So why is the "village manager" the only one involved? Not the mayor, not the local trustee, not planning and development. Just the only person at village hall with no real ties (other than a paycheck) to the village.
Chris February 15, 2012 at 07:53 PM
I wish the Feds would finally arrest the deetch from some of his Florida wrong doings.... He is a bad man.... Not to mention the wrong he has been doing here for a couple of years...
oaklawnperson February 15, 2012 at 08:05 PM
While I just can't get enough of the political infighting (that's sarcasm), I'd like to know a little more about the merits of the proposal. Who are these developers? What office work have they done? What financing do they have in place? What possible tenant commitments do they have? What kind of tenants are they trying to attract (medical, office, some combo)? And how does this fit in with any vision (assuming there is one) for downtown Oak Lawn? I see nothing wrong with trying to make the area around the train station a high-density area. In fact, an attractive, dense, walkable area around the train station could be very attractive to businesses and potential residents. I know the people around the area aren't necessarily fond of the idea, but suburbs all over -- even those that don't have a train station -- are embracing higher-density development. The failures associated with the condos are in many ways a matter of timing, with buildings coming online just as the real-estate market tanked. While certainly it's important to know if someone's palms are being greased in an untoward manner, I'd like to hear more about the idea before passing judgement. Certainly, an office building is going to generate a lot more property tax revenue and attract more ancillary development than an empty lumberyard.
OakLawnGuy February 15, 2012 at 08:17 PM
High-densiry occupation = high-density traffic. One development has already closed Cook at 96th, and that combined with the closing off of n/s side street access to 95th means 52nd Avenue is the route of choice for most traffic going south. The Metra garage was supposed to empty onto 95th: didn't happen. 52nd is tied up with cards turning into and coming out of a poorly planned entrance/exit to Harris Bank. A multi-story edifice will bring even more traffic hell to the area. We know the empty lumber yard's gotta go, but this idea is just plain bad and will drive our home values down.
JohnEggert February 15, 2012 at 08:38 PM
OakLawnGuy, you are right on the money, as usual. I wish I knew you personally. We'd have a lot to talk about. Thank you for your comments.
andy skoundrianos February 15, 2012 at 09:36 PM
OLG.. you live right there, you have every right to disagree with the plan. I just think we should see an official proposal that has bee vetted, and let the discussions begin. To answer another question brought up,. these developers are also involved with the Bally building on 102nd cicero.
OakLawnGuy February 15, 2012 at 10:04 PM
Thanks, John. My feelings aren't "right" to everyone, but I see that there are plenty of fair-minded people who feel as I do regarding a large scale development at Beatty.
john Crivellone February 16, 2012 at 02:30 AM
if Larry Detjen is holding secret meetings to get a office building in Oak Lawn than more power to him. He most likely would have to do something like that to get around the backward thinkers in this town. For the last 20 years a large group of business people outside of the Chamber of Commerce have been petitioning the village for more offices and office space. But the old backward administrations just kept building condos and townhouses. Now we are finally seeing some progress in oak Lawn. An office complex is badly needed.
QQQQ February 16, 2012 at 02:35 AM
9 story office building ??? I Maybe they need your security business John.
Bob February 16, 2012 at 04:07 AM
It is time for Deetjen to pack his bags! They should put the 9/11 memorial there and open Cook Ave up again because at train time this is too conjested!!!!
andy skoundrianos February 16, 2012 at 04:57 AM
Funny, it seems everybody who has negative comments about issues or other bloggers hides behind fake names. What don't you use your real identity?? Makes your case for or against something more believable
Grunty February 16, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Andy, I see where you are coming from but there are lots of reasons for not using your real name. A very good rebuttle to not using your real name is simply the fact that have you ever seen anyone come to the comments section and have thier opinoin on something changed? This isn't really a debate section, its a sounding off board. Nothing is really accomplished in the comments as we all have our preconcieved ideas and it would take alot for them to change. Putting your real name to the comment isn't going to change that. What I do find pretty absurd though is the people who create a new account everytime they want to poke at someone when its obvious that they have been involved in the comment section under a different name before.
JohnEggert February 16, 2012 at 05:27 PM
Andy, it's probably a throwback to the old days in Oak Lawn when some Village officials were vengeful and vindictive toward anyone who disagreed with them or resisted them. It could also be people who are not otherwise publicly known who just want to express their thoughts and stay in the background without concern for any reprisals. I can't hold that against anyone. Sort of the same reason that voting is private and confidential, unless you choose to disclose it. You're different; you're not concerned with the flack. Most are. Some of it bothers me, too, but being on a Village commission (as you know) puts you out there, and you deal with it. At the end of the day, it's good for people to get involved, express their opinions, disagree, argue at times and work things through. Years ago, the former manager once said to me, "There are 55,000 people in Oak Lawn, and if 50 show up at a meeting, it's a big deal. That's why we can do anything we want." Our biggest safeguard is participation; our worst enemy is apathy.
andy skoundrianos February 16, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Yes John those were the good ole days!!! We residents were threatened by the manager on a daily basis. Store owners like yourself were bullied and lied to.THAT MANAGER had secret meetings with developers, which I think just goes to show you how much better we have it under Mr. Deetjen as manager. My opinion only. I do respect your opinion's John and the fact you use your name and are actively involved in the village. I wish more people would..
OL Resident February 16, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Thank you Mr Eggert. I agree....especially with the vengeful and vindictive days of yore. Andy likes to get defensive on this subject; alot. He is to be applauded for putting his name on his work. Not everyone has dreams of being published. Not everyone who writes under a nom de plume has village ties of any kind. I am just an OL resident who seeks the opinions and to express his feelings. If someone anonymous makes a gramitical mistake, or has their facts wrong, or even not PC for the times, you dont have to worry about your homes being burnt down by the "Angry Village Mob"; or tarred and feathered on the Village Green just because you support one side of a polorizing topic. I dont like everything I read in these articles, but I look foward to reading what my neighbors say. If we remain silent: Our elected officials will take it as a sign that they are doing a great job, not good mind you BUT GREAT. What ever you feel about anything in this Village, if you do not voice an opinion you are giving permission to people (you elected) to use their own judgement. Public opinion will always make a pol think "will this decision cost me an election"? Keep up the good fight, Our enemy is not each other but apathy.
Dave W. February 16, 2012 at 06:30 PM
I tend to agree with OLG on this...a large, empty lot is useless and unsightly, but rushing in the first project to be brought in, or one that is poorly thought through such as the condos (my mortgage sits on Cook, and I HATE that they closed the street for that foolhardy monstrosity) in the area. The properties along 95th, just west of Cook are still not filled, why would anyone think that just building more retail space would make anyone want to move in? Same goes for the condos in the area... Here is the thing; ultimately, the town is responsible for what gets built there, they had no problem flexing their legal muscle when they built the other properties with that front of a developer they used then. They threatened everybody with eminent domain, zoning problems, etc. They drove out Veli's, the Browsatorium moved, but never recovered...don't forget, they were all for taking the whole block down to 52nd. The lumber yard was one of the places that stood in the way back then, along with the other small businesses that fought. Imagine how much empty space we would be looking at now if the town would have been allowed to run even more roughshod over the area. They were SO worried at those meetings about how the area could be declared a TIF because it was 'blighted'...yet, how blighted does it look now? The road is unfinished by ten feet, the lot is unpaved and unimproved in any way... Not to lay the blame for all that on the current office holders, but to remind them of it.
Dave W. February 16, 2012 at 06:41 PM
Also, to Andy Skoundrianos' point, I think some know my name, some don't, but if anyone asks, I probably give it to them. Having said that, I have family that I have to watch out for, and while I DOUBT anything would ever happen because of something I write on a message board, because it can't be ruled out as impossible, I do have to use caution, as I suspect many others think as well, either consciously or in the back of their mind. Were I single, without children, without a dog, no cares but myself, I wouldn't give a blue rip who knew what about me. Do some people hide on here, use multiple names; of course? Is some of it plain silly, yes it is. To your point about the property itself...I have never understood how a minute of meetings concerning the town are 'closed' or 'private'. Every person in that meeting, discussing town business, is paid to be there by taxpayers of Oak Lawn. If they are not being paid (via a commision of some sort that is voluntary or something), they are still doing town business, i.e., they work for us! Why is there ANY secrecy, AT ALL?! Nobody said that we would all get to cime in from the peanut gallery throughout the meetings; some parts would require any viewers to sit quietly or leave...that would be fine. To be escorted by officers from a 'closed' session? THAT is NOT transparency of our government. OUR government. When will these officials understand that they are there to represent US, not their backers or friends?
OakLawnGuy February 16, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Not using one's name in a public comment forum does not always equate to cowardice, no matter what anyone says. I have several reasons not to put my given name here, and none have to do with being intimidated by anyone's opinion, so really (Andy and everyone else), let's just let that go and quit making blanket assertions. I have no political ax to grind, I am not in any way affiliated with the Village other than residing here, and I'm not hiding from anything.
RobertS February 17, 2012 at 03:36 PM
I totally agree!!!
CowardIsaSeriousWord February 17, 2012 at 06:52 PM
If someone who has nothing to lose, and I mean ABSOLUTELY nothing, uses is real name does that make him a brave man. Andy please post a list of all your brave accomplishments so I will know of your high qualifications that allow you to call others cowards.
andy skoundrianos February 17, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Your post proves my point exactly
RobertS February 17, 2012 at 08:27 PM
Ummmmmmm... aren't youi getting a little off the focus here?!
QC February 18, 2012 at 02:34 AM
The Village Manager acts on the instructions of the Trustees. Does ANYONE believe that they were 'unaware" of what was happening? Uncle Lar is Happy to oblige them.
Richard Landenti February 18, 2012 at 03:57 AM
An office building would be great in that location
Dr. Linda Lorincz Shelton February 20, 2012 at 04:15 AM
A large office building would be a disaster. There isn't enough parking space and the traffic flow would make the area a nightmare for the residents. We should move any desired new office space to an area in Oak Lawn that can accommodate the traffic. Also - there is so much empty office space in Oak Lawn, why would we want to encourage a big office building, in an area that cannot accommodate the parking or the traffic now, as well as would create a nightmare for the nearb residents? Why don't we work on more creative low rise ideas for the area. If the developers bought the property with an "understanding" from someone in the village that they could develope a large office building, then we have a very big problem.
3rd District Homeowner March 31, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Dr. Linda, How do you know that the property can't accomodate the parking? Couldn't the building use parking under the structure? Isn't there a big parking garage there? It seems like it would be a good place. As for the vacant office buildings, please tell me you are kidding. Those buildings are not going to attract top notch businesses.
Jeri Walker November 15, 2012 at 04:37 PM
I would like to know how the downtown areas of the western suburbs are able to maintain their charm. Oak Lawn's downtown area (aside from the train station) is the ugliest village I've seen. Please, can somebody with some brains take the lead here? These developers need to be stopped!
helen February 27, 2013 at 05:47 PM
Oak Lawn is turning into the city!!! No tower please!!! A small specialty store would be nice to see such as a Trader Joes or a restaurant such as Sweet Tomatoes. We have too many emty office spaces already.

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