The village of Riverside has requested rezoning the property at 43 E. Quincy St. in response to inquiries about it from a microbrewing company, but the owner of the property says he believes the move is premature at this point because he doesn’t have a firm offer on the property.

The Riverside Planning and Zoning Commission is scheduled to consider rezoning the former building, known to longtime residents as the American Legion’s former Memorial Hall, on Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. at Riverside Township Hall, 27 Riverside Road.

“Our interest is to facilitate [the owner] selling the property,” said Riverside Village Manager Jessica Frances.

The proposal is to rezone the 100- by 100-foot property from B-2 Mixed Periphery Zone to B-2 Retail Core. The existing zoning classification allows many of the same residential and commercial uses allowed by the B-2 Retail Core district, but there are some important differences.

For example, the existing zoning classification would allow someone to purchase the property, demolish the structure and build a condominium or apartment building that would allow ground-floor residential units. B-2 Retail Core does not allow ground-floor residential units.

The existing zoning also allows ground-floor professional offices as a special use whereas those offices are allowed by right in the B-2 Retail Core district.

Brew pubs are allowed by right in the B-2 Retail Core district; they are not allowed — not even as a special use — under the existing zoning classification.

Multiple sources have told the Landmark that a company called Ancient Owl Brewing has expressed interest in opening a brew pub at 43 E. Quincy St. Frances said the company has also sought liquor licensing information, though there is no application at this time.

The owner of the property, Riverside resident Thomas Barr, said he’s walked through the property with the brewing company people, but he has no contract on the property or an offer to buy it.

“The issue is, I have a couple of people interested in the building,” Barr said. “One wants to put a brew pub in, but I don’t have a contract, so it’s preemptive to rezone the property.”

The Landmark reached out to the owner of Ancient Owl Brewing, Marcin Andruszkiewicz, asking for comment on whether his company was interested in the building.

Andruszkiewicz said he did not want to comment on the record in an emailed response to the newspaper last week.

Asked if rezoning the property might pave the way for an offer on the property, Frances told the Landmark that “the owner [of the brewing company] said it would help facilitate the contract.”

Barr said he believes the village is trying to be helpful and proactive by asking to rezone the property, but he’s not entirely on board at this time.

The building is listed for sale at $349,000 — down from the $499,000 it was listed at several years ago. At that price, said Barr, the building has started to receive interest from a number of people, for a variety of uses, some of which would be allowed under the present zoning classification but not B-2 Retail Core. Barr said he would not want to have a new owner ask to rezone the property again after purchasing it.

“I have a number of people looking at it and interested in putting in offices,” Barr said. “I wouldn’t want to restrict the best offer from going in and saying, ‘I can’t buy it because of the rezoning.'”

Barr said he’d rather the village hold off until there’s a firm deal in place before moving ahead with rezoning the property.

“I’d like to be able to tell a new property owner that the village is flexible and would be willing to adjust the zoning if it arises,” Barr said.

Frances said it’s possible the Feb. 24 rezoning hearing could be postponed if Barr does not have an offer or contract on the property prior to that date.

“We can always continue the hearing,” Frances said.

The village of Riverside was actually the previous owner of the property at 43 E. Quincy St. In 1988, Barr acquired the property from the village, which put it up for auction. His bid of $136,600 was the highest of three offers for the property.

He built a two-story addition to the rear of the existing one-story commercial building and operated his engineering business from that location for about 20 years. It’s been vacant since about 2010 or so.

The building served as American Legion Post 488 headquarters for many years, and was known as Memorial Hall. In 1968, citing taxes and maintenance costs, the American Legion donated the property to the village of Riverside in exchange for being able to use it as a post headquarters and as a place to store records for as long as the post existed.

The village auctioned off the property in 1988 and nullified its agreement with the American Legion for an unspecified “value received,” according to a document executed on Dec. 19, 1988 and recorded by the Cook County Recorder of Deeds in early 1989.

An article in the Landmark from July 23, 1988 reported that the village was to pay the American Legion Post $2,000 a year for 10 years and provide the post with space in the Youth Center for post memorabilia and rename the building the Youth Center Memorial Hall.

Money from the sale of the Quincy Street property was intended to be used to remodel the Youth Center, according to the Landmark article, “possibly making it into a community center.”

These days, the so-called Youth Center, located east of the main Riverside fire station on Riverside Road, is not generally open to the public. It is used for fire department training, storage of vehicles and village files, and houses equipment for the Riverside Cable Commission. 

This article has been changed to correct the ownership history of 43 E. Quincy St.