By Bob Uphues
Riverside's Village Board of Trustees on Thursday will consider signing a real estate contract to buy a former dry-cleaning business at 2710 Harlem Ave. as the village continues to try to entice developers to remake the stretch between Berkeley and Longcommon roads.
The contract reportedly 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 reported to be $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. "A developer has got to have that to make it work."
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.
Village trustees are expected to be briefed on the timeline for testing the soil and the details of the real estate contract at a meeting of the village board scheduled for Thursday, June 16 at 7 p.m.