A suburban roofing contractor who, according to those who know him likes to keep a low profile, is the new owner of Riverside’s historic Arcade Building.
According to Riverside Village Manager Peter Scalera, Giuseppe Zappani met with village officials Friday to discuss his intention to bring the languishing village landmark up to code and attract both commercial and residential tenants in the future.
“This is very good news for the village,” said Scalera. “For one, village residents now have a face to the building, not a bank. He’s really excited about this opportunity and is anxious to get working on it.”
Zappani has a contract to purchase the Arcade Building, 1 Riverside Road, for $1.3 million, according to the attorney who brokered the deal, Nick Mlade.
According to Mlade, Zappani has been negotiating to buy the property for a year and a half after finding out about it during a visit to the village to meet Mlade, who has represented him on real estate deals on and off for over 20 years.
Mlade described Zappani as “primarily a roofing contractor” who has built a number of houses and apartment buildings. He also has been involved in the restaurant business in both Chicago and the suburbs, according to Mlade. His company is called A&Z Roofing and Construction and is based in Bloomingdale.
Attempts by the Landmark to reach Zappani were unsuccessful.
Mlade, who declined to disclose a contact number, said that Zappani is an Italian immigrant who has built a successful contracting business over a 35-year career.
“He likes historical buildings, and when he saw this one, he decided he’d give it a shot,” Mlade said.
Scalera, who has previously met Zappani but did not know he was in negotiations to buy the Arcade Building, described the developer as “a low-key type person” and “the type of person who likes to work behind the scenes.”
According to both Mlade and Scalera, the first order of business will be to bring the exterior of the Arcade Building up to code. Scalera said that Zappani will be using plans previously approved by the village to guide the work, which should be completed by winter.
Interior improvements, however, apart from code compliance and safety issues, will wait. The eventual goal, Scalera said, is for retail/commercial uses on the ground floor – such as a restaurant and coffee shop – and a mix of office and residential tenants on the second and third floors of the building.
“Nothing will be done on the interior at this time,” Mlade said. “The interior will have safety issues taken care of and then work will stop.”
Zappani will not pursue the original plans developed for the building by Wexford Development Group which featured construction of a new condominium addition on the rear of the property.
“At least he’ll bring it into conformity,” Mlade said. “God knows, with this economy, where it will go from there.”
At Monday’s meeting of the village board, Village President Michael Gorman said an effort is underway to save the mural covering the first-floor window openings of the Arcade Building, a project undertaken by village officials, resident volunteers, businesses and the Riverside-Brookfield High School Fine Arts Department to not only beautify the vacant structure but secure it as it faced a second winter.
Gorman said that the new owner has pledged to give the mural panels to the village and that the Riverside Public Library has expressed interest in exhibiting parts of it as an exhibit. He said the high school may also be interested in exhibiting the artwork.
Built in 1871 by the Riverside Improvement Company as the primary commercial structure in its planned suburban real estate venture, the Arcade Building has always been a focal point in downtown Riverside.
Although it was unknown at the time, its troubles began in December 2004 when Wexford Development Group purchased it for $3.1 million. The company, a subsidiary of Wextrust Capital, proposed to build a condominium addition onto the rear of the building and restore the original historic structure facing Riverside Road.
By early 2007, Wexford abandoned its plan for the condo addition and focused on restoring the exterior of the historic building. Some improvements were made to the building in 2007 and 2008.
But in August 2008, the federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a lawsuit against two principals of Wextrust Capital, charging them with operating a Ponzi scheme that defrauded more than 1,000 investors of $100 million.
The company’s assets, including the Arcade Building, were placed in receivership. A federal judge allowed the mortgage holder, a company affiliated with Minnesota-based PrinsBank, to regain title to the property in early 2009, disentangling the building from the federal lawsuit.
In April 2009, Landmarks Illinois declared the Arcade Building one of the state’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Places.