2710 Harlem Ave., Riverside (LoopNet)

Riverside’s Village Board of Trustees on June 16 voted to enter into a real estate contract to buy a former dry-cleaning business at 2710 Harlem Ave. as Riverside continues to try and entice developers to remake the stretch between Berkeley and Longcommon roads.

The contract gives the village 180 days to test the property for contaminants related to the business, which had stood for decades on the spot before ceasing operations recently after the death of the longtime owner in 2014.

The contracted purchase price for the 6,250-square-foot property, comprising two identical parcels, is $150,000. The dry-cleaning business is flanked by underperforming commercial properties on each side. To the south is a mostly vacant strip mall, while a vacant building stands to the north.

“At that price point and given it’s the central lot, it’s the pivotal piece,” said Village President Ben Sells in an interview with the Landmark last week. “A developer has got to have that to make it work.”

According to the terms of the contract, Riverside will plunk down $8,000 as earnest money, a figure that will increase to $15,000 after Riverside completes the first phase of a two-part environmental review of the property.

The present owner of the property does have a “no further remediation” letter from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, which was executed in 2012. There is also a NFR letter on file dated 2001, according to information found on Cook County Recorder of Deeds’ website.

In the event the environmental testing discloses contamination, the contract allows the village of Riverside to terminate the contract and have its earnest money returned. 

However, if the village’s environmental testing shows the property to be clear of contaminants, the contract allows for the real estate closing to be expedited. Results of the two-phase environmental testing process are expected back by early October.

In April, the village board gave the go-ahead for village staff to explore the feasibility of creating a business district that would allow the imposition of a special sales tax on goods and services provided within the district. The money could be used to pay for development costs within the district.

Village officials said such a business district could be used to attract developers. However, even though no decision has been made on the business district idea, the village has decided to move ahead with the property purchase to get things started.

If the village ends up buying the property, the intention is to request development proposals that, hopefully, would include all three of the contiguous commercial properties and perhaps the gas station property south of Longcommon Road.

“It could be one of the most beautiful entrance points of the village,” Sells said.

Sells said the village is not interested in buying any of the other commercial properties on Harlem Avenue.

“We don’t want to be developers, but we’re not going to get a chance like this again,” Sells said.