Two weeks after obtaining a 20-year sales tax rebate deal from the village of North Riverside, Kalamazoo, Michigan-based Zeigler Automotive Group on July 31 paid $8 million to buy the roughly 7-acre of land it had been leasing for its Zeigler Ford dealership at 2100 Harlem Ave. since 2018.

The purchase was listed in the latest roundup of property transactions released last week by the Cook County Recorder of Deeds and sets the stage for a major renovation of the dealership Zeigler Automotive Group promised to deliver to the village.

“I think it’s a win-win for the village and for Zeigler,” said North Riverside Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. of the land purchase. “That location will be beautified, and it’s a well-trafficked corner and will improve sales for everybody around there.”

It’s unclear exactly when a renovation or expansion of the existing showroom might break ground. A top Zeigler Automotive Group official did not respond to an email from the Landmark seeking comment.

Hermanek said he was told that once a land sale was complete that it would take between six and nine months for the Zeigler corporate office to approve plans for improvements at the North Riverside dealership.

Village Administrator Sue Scarpiniti said that her understanding of the planned improvements included both the renovation of the existing showroom and some new construction.

In mid-July, the North Riverside Village Board approved a deal that would rebate 50 percent of all sales taxes from vehicle purchases at Zeigler for 20 years. In exchange, the company pledged to maintain a dealership at the location for 20 years.

The agreement also states that the company will begin construction of improvements within three years and that those improvements must be complete within two years of work commencing.

Part of the reason the village agreed to such a generous sales tax rebate deal, said Hermanek, was a promise by Zeigler to expand its inventory and sales of vehicles. Without such a deal, according to Hermanek, Zeigler might have sought greener pastures.

“Half a loaf of bread is better than no bread at all,” Hermanek said. 

Zeigler Automotive Group purchased the property from Rizza Auto Group, which operated Joe Rizza Ford there from 1978 to 2017, when it leased the dealership to McCarthy Ford, based on Chicago’s South Side.

McCarthy sold its North Riverside business to Zeigler Automotive Group 18 months later as the Michigan-based company sought to expand its footprint in the Chicago market. Zeigler Automotive Group now owns and operates more than 25 dealerships in Indiana, Illinois and Michigan.