363 E. Burlington St., Riverside (Bob Uphues/Editor)

The village of Riverside is poised to buy the derelict property at 363 E. Burlington St. in a move officials hope will spur redevelopment of that parcel and a parking lot immediately to the east, which the village acquired early this year.

Village trustees voted unanimously without discussion to approve spending $500,000 to buy the brick two-story, mixed-use building from Lion Development II LLC, a corporation owned by Riverside resident and entrepreneur Patrick Leone.

Leone acquired the property on June 10, when Lion Development II LLC purchased it from Sorelle Development LLC for $425,000, according to Cook County property records. In February, the Giuseppe Zappani Trust had conveyed the property to Sorelle Development LCC, a corporation managed by members of the Zappani family.

Riverside Village Manager Jessica Frances said once officials learned Leone was pursuing the property, they approached him about obtaining it. At the time, Frances said, Leone already had the building under contract.

“I was just going to redevelop it, just fix it up,” said Leone, whose business office is just down the block. “It’s a nice solid building.”

The village of Riverside intends to market the properties at 363 E. Burlington St. and 3320 Harlem Ave. as a package for transit-oriented redevelopment.

Once the village expressed an interest, Leone said he decided “instead of doing the work myself to sell it to the village.”

“It’ll be interesting to see what happens,” Leone said.

The sales contract approved by the village board at their meeting on July 7 states the closing will take place within 30 days. The village is buying the property in as-is condition.

Because the property at 363 E. Burlington St. is located within Business District No. 2, created by the village board in 2020, its purchase will be funded through the business district, which imposes a 1-percent tax on retail sales within the business district.

Business District No. 2 stretches along Harlem Avenue from roughly Addison Road to Lawton Road and includes commercial properties in the 300 block of East Burlington Street.

Any money collected by the village for selling the property in the future will go into the business district reserve fund.

Asked what the village intends to do with the property once it’s acquired, Frances said the goal was to identify a developer and enter into a redevelopment agreement. She said there is no project on the table right now

The property will be marketed for redevelopment along with the parking lot at 3320 Harlem Ave., which is adjacent to 363 E. Burlington St., and which the village acquired for $10 in January as part of the deal for approving the construction of a Sherwin-Williams store at 3300 Harlem Ave.

The parking lot property alone was not entirely suitable for the kind of transit-oriented development the village would like to attract at such a prominent location at a Riverside gateway. The two properties together, however, measure about a half-acre, which will be much more suitable for redevelopment.

Riverside is in the midst of rewriting its commercial zoning code with a particular focus on commercial districts near the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad, and the proposed new language would allow planned unit developments in the B1-TOD district, which includes both parcels, to be up to five stories or 60 feet tall.

In the short term, the village has no plans to do more than make sure the building at 363 E. Burlington St. is safe and secure. It has no immediate plans to demolish the building. The village also is not planning to engage a commercial real estate broker to market the property at this time.

“We will reach out to those we think will be interested,” Frances said.

Giuseppe Zappani purchased the 363 E. Burlington St. property in 2014 for $238,000 and had planned to rehabilitate it. His son-in-law had won village approval to convert the ground floor commercial space into a Prohibition-themed brew pub, but the project never got off the ground and the building slid into a state of disrepair. 

Zappani, who also had bought and restored the landmark Arcade Building in downtown Riverside, died in October 2020. The family still owns the Arcade Building.