The village of Riverside will move to acquire a tax-delinquent commercial building on Harlem Avenue through Cook County’s No Cash Bid Program after village trustees voted unanimously on May 4 to make that request this month.
The building in question is officially listed as 3250 Harlem Ave., but the one-story building comprises five storefronts, three of which are occupied by Comic Collector, Strive 4 Fitness and Psychic Readings with Sarah White.
According to the Cook County Recorder of Deeds, the owner of record is a corporation called Harlem Jam LLC, whose managers are Jeanne Anderson, of St. Paul, Minnesota, and Anthony McElligott. But the present ownership appears a bit murky.
Harlem Jam LLC was involuntarily dissolved in April 2021, a month after the village of Riverside placed a lien on the property for non-payment of the water/sewer bill from July through October 2020 in the amount of $566.
McElligott is a former Riverside resident who sold his Gatesby Road home in July 2016, the same year he switched ownership of 3250 Harlem Ave. to Harlem Jam LLC. Beginning in 2017, according to Cook County Treasurer records, the Harlem Avenue property became tax delinquent.
Riverside Village Manager Jessica Frances told the Landmark that the village has had no luck finding McElligott and that the tenants themselves don’t know exactly who their landlord is at this time.
“What we’re aware of currently is that they have no one to pay rent to and there are code-enforcement challenges on the property,” Frances said. “Part of this no-cash bid process is really to handle those issues, because right now the village is getting calls and there’s nothing we can do.”
Most recently, Frances said, the village had to respond to a significant water leak inside one of the vacant storefronts.
“We had to go in and get that turned off,” Frances said. “There’s been graffiti on the building and there’s been a number of things that, unfortunately, is a challenge because it’s private property, so there’s limitations as to what the village can do.”
For more than a decade, McElligott operated AAA Bartending School out of the 3250 Harlem Ave. storefront, but that space has been vacant since about 2017, which is also the year the property became tax-delinquent. Subsequently, someone purchased the building’s delinquent 2017 property taxes.
Sarah White, who has leased the 3240 Harlem Ave. storefront for about a decade, said the tax buyer was a New Jersey property development firm, but she has had little luck contacting them.
Rick Lukes, whose Comic Collector store has called 3246 Harlem Ave. home for 36 years, told the Landmark he hasn’t seen McElligott in years. Asked who he calls when there are property maintenance issues, Lukes said there is no one.
“So far I haven’t had any issues, but if I did, I would take care of them myself,” Lukes said.
Shawn Groll, who has operated Strive 4 Fitness at 3242 Harlem Ave. since 2018, says he too got a letter stating that delinquent property taxes had been purchased, but remains in the dark about the ownership.
He said his boutique fitness gym will remain on Harlem Avenue for now, but he’s also preparing to eventually merge the Riverside operation into a new 7,100-square-foot location at 7905 Ogden Ave. in Lyons.
“We’ll still be in Riverside as long as we can,” Groll said. “Hopefully the town does do something for that area.”
The village has no specific plans for the future of the property, according to Frances.
“Our focus is really to address the code enforcement issues and challenges, so there is actually someone who’s a point of contact when issues arise, because right now there isn’t,” she said.
As to the possibility of simply maintaining the building and leasing the storefronts, Frances said that was something a future village board would need to determine.
“We’re not looking to get rid of businesses. Our primary focus is the code enforcement piece. What do we do if we actually are successful getting that parcel, that’d be another conversation to be had at that point,” Frances said. “We appreciate those who have created successful businesses in that area.”