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.
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.