The Village Center has a new owner.

On Dec. 13, 2013 a company called Lion Development II LLC purchased the 12 remaining residential condo units and four ground-floor commercial units in the building at 10 E. Burlington St. in Riverside for $3,225,000 from a company called Cascade Holdings LLC, which obtained the property via a deed in lieu of foreclosure in early 2013.

According to Illinois Secretary of State, the principal of Lion Development II is Riverside resident Patrick Leone, who operates Leone Trading from the East Burlington Street address listed as the home of Lion Development.

Leone, a longtime resident of Riverside, told the Landmark last week that he bought the property as an investment, and that there are no firm plans for the building, which has struggled since it was built. 

Only two of the commercial spaces are leased. The large corner retail space, long-envisioned as a restaurant to anchor Riverside’s downtown, has never found a tenant.

Completed in 2008 just as the real estate bubble burst, the original developers of the four-story, mixed-use building were saddled with millions in debt. Roughly half of the residential condominiums and all of the ground-floor commercial spaces remained unsold.

Village Center LLC obtained a construction loan of $10.8 million in 2006, but construction delays meant that the building wasn’t completed for two years. Initially, sales went well. 

As construction ended in the spring of 2008, eight of the residential condos, including one of the fourth-floor penthouse units, had sold. In addition, Shamrock Garden Florist signed a lease to occupy one of the commercial units.

But after the real estate market crashed, sales stalled. In the meantime, the company in 2009 increased its mortgage obligation to $12.16 million, and it began renting residential units. But the income from those rentals apparently was not enough to make the numbers work.

In January 2013, Village Center Development LLC deeded the property in lieu of foreclosure to a company called Cascade Holdings LLC, which shares the same address as FirstMerit Bank, which acquired the development’s original lender, Midwest Bank and Trust, in 2010.

The holding company put the unsold condos and commercial units up for sale. In late 2013 the property was listed for $7.6 million. The units could be bought individually or as a package, the listing stated, along with 34 deeded parking spaces and five deeded storage rooms.

The listing also stated that nine of the 12 residential condo units for sale were leased, along with two of the four commercial spaces, which house Shamrock Garden Florist and an Edward Jones office. 

Also purchased Coveny Lane building

The Village Center, while a much more substantial investment, wasn’t Leone’s only foray into the downtown Riverside real estate market last year. Less than a month before buying the Village Center, Leone purchased the former Coveny Lane building at 30 E. Burlington St.

According to records obtained from the Cook County Recorder of Deeds, Leone bought the building for $250,000 from PNC Bank, which owns the property directly east, on Nov. 15, 2013. The two parties also signed an easement agreement giving Leone’s property access to parking.

The easement agreement also includes language regarding the types of businesses that will and won’t be allowed at 30 E. Burlington St. The language doesn’t directly indicate what Leone is planning for the property, and last week Leone said no firm plans were in the works.

He shot down a rumor circulating that a partnership was planning to open either a pizza place or Italian restaurant there.

But the easement agreement specifically states that “upscale bars, taverns and cocktail lounges are permitted, as well as a bar ancillary to a sit-down restaurant.” 

The easement agreement doesn’t rule out general retail uses, though it does prohibit second-hand stores, pawn shops, gun shops, title loan companies, auto repair businesses, tattoo parlors, massage parlors and other adult-use businesses

Coveny Lane, a gift shop specializing in Irish imports, had operated in the space for 11 years until moving to Forest Park last summer. The building had been for sale since 2009.