The giant electronic message board at First Avenue and Cermak Road in North Riverside may be due for a change, according to village officials and the company that owns the sign.
For months, the 15-by-18-foot sign at the Crossroads of North Riverside strip mall has been dark — a large, black slab two stories above the traffic that scurries through the intersection.
But James Gierczyk, president of the real estate development company Gierczyk Inc. and Gierczyk Media LLC, said last week that he’s pitching village officials a plan to reduce the size of the sign and upgrade its technology.
“It’s no good to have something not functional,” said Gierczyk. “What we’re trying to accomplish is to make it so that North Riverside can be proud of it. We want it to be compatible.”
One way to do that, according to Gierczyk is to reduce the size of the sign, from 270 square feet to 200 square feet. The company also wants to make the sign more rectangular, like a traditional billboard, with dimensions measuring 10-by-20 feet.
The new sign would also make use of LED technology instead of the individual transistors that light up to create images on the present sign when it was in operation. The colors will be “clearer,” said Gierczyk and the technology will also make it easier for the sign’s owners to change messages on the message board.
“It’s a maintenance issue, and with the new programming it will be a lot clearer,” said Gierczyk. “It’s overdue, but it’s a huge undertaking to coordinate.”
Gierczyk said he recently received replacement parts to fix the sign, but he’d rather spend money upgrading the message board instead of dumping more money into one that’s already outdated.
“It’s a very expensive sign,” he said.
Village Administrator Guy Belmonte said Gierczyk has had a conversation with the North Riverside Building Department, but nothing is in the works yet.
“I haven’t discussed it yet with the mayor,” said Belmonte.
Gierczyk bought the triangular piece of property on the northeast corner of First Avenue and Cermak Road from the village of North Riverside in 2002 for $500,000. The village had purchased the isolated plot of land in 1999 from the Cook County Forest Preserve District for the same price.
The message board was constructed in early 2005 and went live in May of that year. At the time, officials stated that it would become a revenue source North Riverside, with the village pocketing half the profits.
However, the village never received a dime from the company. The contract touted by village officials in 2005 apparently was only a verbal agreement, and the man who had made the agreement with the village died.
Asked whether the village might try to negotiate a revenue-sharing agreement now that the owner of the sign seeks to make changes, Belmonte said nothing’s been decided.
“That may be one of the considerations, but until I talk to the mayor, I really don’t know,” said Belmonte.
In April 2010, the bank holding the mortgage on the strip mall property foreclosed, and in October 2010 the deed to the strip mall, known as Crossroads of North Riverside, was transferred to Wheaton Bank and Trust.
Gierczyk maintained the deed to the land containing the sign. In 2006, Crossroads of North Riverside, a company headed by Gierczyk, inked an agreement with Gierczyk Media LCC, which he also owns.
That contract called for Gierczyk Media to pay Crossroads of North Riverside $1 per month to maintain a “sign board” at the site. The term of the agreement was for 480 months, or until Dec. 31, 2046. Crossroads of North Riverside was involuntarily dissolved as a corporation in January 2012.