Admit it, when you heard that a developer was eyeing the former Bank of America property at 3300 Harlem Ave. in Riverside to construct a new Sherwin Williams paint store – oh, if haven’t heard yet, you can read all about it here – you said to yourself, “Really? A paint store?”
That was pretty much the same response the village of Brookfield got back in 2015 when officials there announced that they were cutting a deal with this same developer to bring a Sherwin Williams store to the long vacant corner at Ogden and Eberly avenues.
No, it’s not sexy. But the paint store in Brookfield turned a property that had been derelict and non-tax producing for more than a decade – the village had picked it up from the county in 2004 – into a solid property tax and sales tax generator.
Bank of America vacated the Riverside property two years ago, paving the way for redeveloping two key gateway properties, the bank itself and the parking lot across the street.
We’re not sure exactly what the perfect use for those properties might be, but a bank branch and an almost always empty parking lot certainly wasn’t it, and no one seemed to mind too much about the bank’s longtime presence at that corner.
In terms of commercial potential for the village, it would certainly seem that a Sherwin Williams store is a sure bet from a sales tax standpoint. A Sherwin Williams store has operated across the tracks on the Berwyn side of Harlem Avenue for decades, so moving it a stone’s throw away in Riverside isn’t likely to hurt business.
Naturally, we question the necessity for the village to hand out such generous financial incentives to bring the paint store to the corner. The developer told trustees that the $220,000 being gifted over 10 years is critical to “fill a gap” in the financing due to the increased costs of construction in the wake of the pandemic.
The developer knows his numbers best, of course, but he has routinely asked for such incentives in developing a number of stores for Sherwin Williams over the years, including ones completed with pre-pandemic construction pricing.
In Brookfield, the developer essentially got the property for nothing and two years later turned around and sold the property, clearing a profit of about a half million dollars. Good for him, we suppose.
We’d be less inclined to look so favorably on the incentives if not for one key element of this deal: the village is getting something as valuable as a new development. The village is getting the old bank parking lot as part of the deal, which gives them control over how to best develop it in line with the anticipated amended commercial district zoning code, which is under way.
It can be used for paid commuter parking, for now, or something else down the line. Either way, getting the opportunity to guide development of key gateway properties is a rare thing. For us, that’s the best part of the deal.