A Chicago options trader wants to transform Brookfield Bowl, 3415 Maple Ave., into a bowling/laser tag entertainment destination and has already pitched his ambitious plan to village officials.
Steve Borkowski, a “market maker” for a securities trading firm called Equitec Group, presented an eight-page proposal to the village in late October that envisions a 10,000-square-foot “family-themed bowling and entertainment center,” which would include an eight-lane bowling alley, an individually franchised laser tag operation, a full bar with video gambling machines and possibly a kitchen.
Borkowski said he has everything lined up to make the venture happen — a bowling consultant with access to equipment from Brunswick, a building contractor, and investors.
According to his proposal, Borkowski plans on sinking as much as $1 million into the renovation of the derelict bowling alley, which has sat vacant since February 2011.
“Everything is in place,” Borkowski said. “I can move on this tomorrow.”
Borkowski said he needs access to the property in order to get his structural engineer the ability to inspect the failed roof trusses that forced the closure of the business in the first place. The village acquired the bowling alley, but not the adjacent parking lot, in November through Cook County’s no-cash bid program, a tool to get delinquent properties back on the tax rolls.
But, says Borkowski, village officials are putting up roadblocks — a charge Village Manager Keith Sbiral denies.
Borkowski said he first expressed interest in the bowling alley in May, when the property still was making its way through the no-cash bid process, which took about two years to complete.
In November, he emailed Sbiral and Village President Kit Ketchmark to inquire about the status of the building. When Sbiral let him know the village had obtained the property, Borkowski in early December pushed to do an interior inspection in order to get more definitive cost estimates for bringing the building up to code.
Sbiral told Borkowski he expected the village board to discuss the direction they’d like to take for the property during the first quarter of 2015. Borkowski wanted the village to move faster.
“I am at the point of deciding to either do the deal in Brookfield or go elsewhere with the project if it is going to be cost-prohibitive or take an extensive period of time to even get the preliminary steps done,” Borkowski wrote to Sbiral on Dec. 2.
Sbiral says he’s in no position to move on Borkowski’s plan because the village board has not decided how to proceed with the property. A number of people have expressed interest in renovating or demolishing and redeveloping the property, he said.
The process for redeveloping the property has to be open and fair, Sbiral said, and the decision on how to proceed has to come from the elected board.
“I’m not going to prejudge something or give someone a leg up on another developer,” said Sbiral. “If we do a [request for proposals] it’s going to be a fair process.
“I’m not going to start doing tours of the bowling alley.”
Borkowski learned of the bowling alley redevelopment opportunity from a business colleague, John LaRocque, who was an investor in Brookfield Bowl before the First National Bank of Brookfield began foreclosure proceedings on the building in 2008.
Because of the cost of renovating the property, Borkowski said he would seek to obtain it by having the village deed him the property. In order to make the project work, said Borkowski, he’d also need to acquire the adjacent parking lot, which is controlled by First National Bank of Brookfield.
“If I have to buy a parking lot, there’s no room to pay for that building,” Borkowski said.
Sbiral indicated he’s not in a rush to make a decision on the property, which the village acquired just a month ago.
“There is no shortage of proposals,” Sbiral said. “I’d encourage the village board to determine what is the most fiscally sustainable project.”