Thursday, July 16, 2009

Transforming Aurora | Solution for Old Copley Hospital, Old Police Station, Old Downtown Aurora, Old Ways, Old Ideas

50 comments:

Anonymous said...

July 16, 2009
By DAN CAMPANA dcampana@scn1.com
A senior official of Mercy Housing, the company proposing to rehab the old Copley hospital in Aurora and other projects in Kane County, has a multimillion-dollar bankruptcy on his resume.

And that, in part, prompted one Kane County Board member this week to vote against a resolution that would help Mercy Housing obtain financing for its county projects.

Scott Fergus, a regional senior vice president of real estate finance and credit with Mercy Housing Lakefront in Chicago, filed for personal bankruptcy in Wisconsin, claiming nearly $80 million in liabilities related to what published reports describe as failed development projects, according to documents filed in April 2008 in the Eastern Wisconsin division of federal bankruptcy court.

"That was definitely one of my concerns," Kane board member Barb Wojnicki of St. Charles said Wednesday.

The board voted 22-1, with Wojnicki casting the lone dissenting vote, to approve an intent to issue $16 million in bonds to support Mercy Housing's bid for a multimillion-dollar federal grant.

Fergus has been with Mercy Housing "about a year," according to company President Cindy Holler. She defended the decision to hire Fergus, who listed himself as unemployed and reported his income went from $110,000 in 2006 to just under $7,000 as of April 1, 2008, the day of his bankruptcy filing.

"When I saw a talented person in need of a job, I hired him," Holler said.

Although Holler didn't specify Fergus' role other than to say he is under her direction, Fergus has been part of the agency's pitch to establish a housing rehab and redevelopment plan in Kane County.

That proposal involves U.S. Housing and Urban Development grant money -- backed by a county commitment to issue $16 million in private activity bonds if the grant seeking $70 million comes through -- and the creation of senior housing at the old Copley hospital in Aurora.

In total, the five-year project carries a $312 million price tag to rehab and develop as many as 1,700 foreclosed or underutilized properties in Aurora, Elgin, Carpentersville and St. Charles, according to Mercy Housing officials.

According to an April 2008 story published by The Journal Times of Racine, Wis., Fergus' bankruptcy came after financing and demand for a condo project on Lake Michigan in Racine fell apart and another condo project in Milwaukee filed for what amounted to bankruptcy.

Court records show Fergus listed about $721,000 in assets, most of that coming from the value of Fergus' home, which he later gave up.

Other Wisconsin court records indicate a $5.5 million judgment against Fergus' company, KeyBridge Development, as part of a lawsuit filed by the lead construction firm on the Milwaukee project.

Holler, speaking on Fergus' behalf, repeated that "his business ventures in Milwaukee happened before he came to Mercy" and the troubles are similar to many other companies that failed when the economy went downhill.

The Kane County Board on Tuesday offered its support for Mercy Housing's concept by expressing the intent to offer bond money if Mercy is awarded the HUD grant. A final agreement must be signed before any of that can happen, the county's resolution states.

The grant application is due Friday, with an award announcement not likely for six months.

Holler said the focus on Kane County has covered two years and is based on her local experience that comes from living in the area, specifically in St. Charles where she serves as chairman of the city's housing commission.

Outside of Aurora, no other specific sites have been named.

Wojnicki complained Mercy Housing's resolution was "rushed" through the county process with not enough details -- such as how the county is assured no financial responsibility should it authorize the bonds -- given to board members.

Simply being told that in an e-mail on Monday "isn't good enough for me," she said.

Leonard said...

Tear it down and do not spend taxpayer money on such projects. Let these developers build a new facility. Why try to recussitate a dead building?

If a project cannot be done or survive without taxpayer money the project is probably marginal at best so do not do the project. The proping up of such projects and the idea of too big to fail is a failed concept from the starting gate and should stop.

The era of government give aways is going to have to end. The private sector is under attack at all levels by our so-called "government".

What the people in that "government" do not seem to understand is that they are totally dependent upon the private sector for their existence. Without the private sector there are no government jobs.

Why? Because someone has to pay for it and that payment comes only from the private sector. The private sector of which I speak is made up of the people that hold jobs in the private sector and pay taxes. Keep in mind that corporations are tax collectors not tax payers. The only entity that can pay taxes is the individual people that make up the population i.e. those that work in the private sector and pay those taxes. Yes governemtn employees pay taxes but the source of their earnings is the private sector tax payer and their taxes are nothing more than a give back to their employer.

The only other way for the government to survive once it destroys the private sector is to literally own and control every business and every asset in the country. That worked well in the USSR didn't it.

Keep looking to the collective genius of government to save you and that colletive genius, the IQ of a slug will save you and this nation into oblivion and save you individually as a person into tyranny.

Just look around, it is easy to see now as these people have become very emboldened and are more "in your face" about their intentions.

As Glenn Beck said one day as a paraphrase not a quote, (The conspiracy theorists have been telling us this for years and you know what, they were right.)

Anonymous said...

Don't just limit it to the listed properties. Alot of the near eastside, Jericho Circle, parts of the near westside are ready for urban renewal. Aurora should do what"little richie daley" did and close down the public housing and offer vouchers to the displaced tenants to move back to the rehabilitated Chicago neighborhoods where they came from.

Anonymous said...

Leonard-
Still the best poster on OLB.

Anonymous said...

I'm not quite sure what a "dead building" is. Was the Aurora hotel a dead building? The Fire Museum? Are foreclosed houses with water damage dead? How long does a building have to be empty before it's considered dead?

Anonymous said...

The solution is tear them down and plant trees and grass and make a park of the properties. Si tin the old police station for 20 years as a park and then sell it to developers at a huge premium once the land locked communities see a huge value increase in riverfront property.

Anonymous said...

I want my bailout!!!

Anonymous said...

Will you settle for a kick in the ass?

Anonymous said...

Leonard,

How come you don't live in a new subdivision?

Leonard said...

One might look to the City of Aurora ordinances for an indication as to whether a building might be dead. My recollection is that if a structure suffers catastrophic loss, say by fire, to the extent that the cost to repair or rebuild that structure exceeds 50% of the value of the structure at the time of the damage it must be demolished. Using that type of equation one could also look to the cost of bringing a structure into code compliance, with suitable considerations for some elements of functional obsolesce due to age etc, as a ratio of the value of the building. Thus under the equation, as stated, if the cost of renovation exceeds 50% of the value of the structure demolition may be in order.

Employ a 100% ratio when the construction is for renovation rather than catastrophic loss, meaning that if the cost of renovation is greater than the full market value of the structure at the time when the proposed renovations are to be made then demolition may be in order.

Take this idea even farther with projects that involve taxpayer money and increase that ratio to 200% and we might find that such projects exceed even that ratio.

I do not recall the cost of this project but I will be surprised if it does not exceed 200% of the present value of the land and buildings at the site. At some point the cost of renovation will exceed the cost of building new which I suggest makes no sense at all.

The point here is that having taxpayer money stuffed into a black hole is not, in my opinion, good public policy. But it seems that too many projects somehow just have to have taxpayer money, just cannot be done without taxpayer money. Well guess what maybe such projects should not be done.

If the project will not support itself by virtue of the economics of the project why is it that the taxpayers must support it? Stop already. We cannot afford it any more.

Where we live is a function of and supported by our private not public funds and that is the long and the short of it.

In addition, I will tell you this. We purchased here so that our children could attend Holy Angels School and we committed to ourselves and our children that we would stay at the same location until they graduated from high school rather than move them around as I was.

Anonymous said...

Leonard, can't you condense what you want to say in just 3 or 4 sentences like everyone else does? Who needs to read your novels?

Anonymous said...

I agree! Leonard, stop being so long winded. No one reads your posts, they put us to sleep!!

Anonymous said...

Most of us think in short phrases, Leonard thinks in paragraphs. I appreaciate his contributions, even though I disagree with most of his philosphies.

Anonymous said...

Leonard,

Did you know that there are good Catholic schools in new developments.

You seem to be enjoying the "perks" of an older neighborhood, including the fruits of an older parish.

Anonymous said...

I wish people would stop comparing governmental principles with business.

Here are a few differences:

Profit. The object of business is the bottom line, the object of government is the good and welfare of the people. Roads, police protection, sewage treatment, water purity,etc., do not turn a profit. These are for the common good.

Leadership. Anyone who runs a business is probably unfit to be a public servant. A CEO does not operate by consensus. A CEO makes decisions and implements them without public input.

Investment. In business, this is measured in terms of monitary returns. Business is not altruistic. Government (good government) should always be concerned with the here and now of the needs of it's people. Investment in people is not good business practice, unless it effects image.

Anonymous said...

The old police station site cannot be sold to developers. There was a lawsuit that determined that only the portion that is currently built out may be used as a government building. The rest must remain a park or it reverts to the former owners, the Wilders.

Leonard said...

6:46

My statmente was clear, we chose Holy Angels parish for the reason stated.

Also, why this interest about where we live?

And what do you see as the "perks" of an older neighborhood?

Anonymous said...

7:31 - thanks

Anonymous said...

Len
I love to read your stuff keep going.

Anonymous said...

7:11 no the role of government is not the good of the people. The role of the government is to protect the people form invasion and provide a minimal set of laws for peaceful co-existence. Anything else is an impediment to freedom.

This city has way too much Govnernment.

Anonymous said...

I like Leonard's posts. In part they point out a deficiency in this forum. There is no open discussion section.

Anonymous said...

Keep going Leonard. Your post are informative and common sense. I appreciate them.

Anonymous said...

Leonard, where do you copy and paste all that crap from?

Anonymous said...

Leonard...

Seems like your getting more and more gripes about your lengthy diatribes. If people aren't going to read your so-called "War and Peace", novels, you're wasting your time.
You won't win any Nobel Peace prize in literature here.

Anonymous said...

TO LEONARD,

My interest is not about where you live, it's why you live here.

If you believe that the older buildings downtown should be destroyed, why not just build a new town elsewhere on vacant land?

Those of us who chose to live here did so because it is a quaint and interesting place to be.

There are Catholic schools everywhere. Why Holy Angels?

Anonymous said...

Give it to D131 they can build the Jerome Roberts day-care center

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the fruits of an older parish, here's something out of the archives.

Did you see where the city of Geneva lost their preservation case before the appellante court in Elgin? The homewoner was allowed to use metal windows instead of wooden ones which were contrary to those pesky historic guidelines.

Gee. it's 2009, and people ought to be free to use metal windows in their homes, don't you think? But here comes the wave of reaction.....

Oh, my, shutter the thought! Absolutely ghastly! To say nothing about the linkages of the decision and its effect on the freedom of homeowners up and down the Valley.


Talk about old ideas, old ways, and non-essential services from a municipality.

But we all know that our cities would crumble from ruination should we have no window guidelines and similar rules for homes.

Oh, give me your children, your huddled masses and those yearning to breath free far away from the opression and dogmatism of preservation and the mandate of oak windows in your bedroom.

Go to Geneva my children, where the promise of freedom looms for us all!

Third Street, here we come! With our metal windows in tow to destroy your residences.

Anonymous said...

Hey 12:37-

Was that a Pulitzer?

Anonymous said...

12:50 - because vacant land has value. We have already killed the soil under these old buildings, the should be revitalized so to have minimal impact on the some of the richest soil in the world.

I am not an environmental wacko, but I have respect for the innate value of the land in Illinois. It is a marvel. I wish we would think a bit more before we decide to degrade the soil to the point it cannot filter our water leaching into the water table, or is destroyed so it cannot support life. I would rather see tear downs than new construction on raw land any day.

Anonymous said...

Holy Angels is a declining parish. The pastor is more conservative than the Pope, unapproachable, and currently ticked off because so many from his church are going west to the new Catholic church in Sugar Grove, St. Katherine Drexel.

Too bad, because Holy Angels in the '90s was one of the best grade schools in the area.

Anonymous said...

To 7:17

Since when do cities require rich soil and how good of you to be concerned about the removal of old buildings to protect it.

The tear down of a building creates many more environmental problems than leaving it in place and rehabbing it.

Is there a reason that you are so concerned for the soil in the city? How about the water in the river. Are you helping to protect the Fox? Could really use more community support for that.

Anonymous said...

Leonard:

The 50% value clause was added to Ch 37 of the code about 15 years ago and is not manditory. It"s purpose had little to do with rehab. It applied to abandoned buildings that were safety hazards.

When a community decides that a building is important and wants to retain it, it is entirely appropriate to use tax money.

Viva la majority rules.

Anonymous said...

Cities do not require decent soil, they destroy decent soil; that is the point. Better to rebuild on the land already decimated than put up subdivisions on rich farmland.

As for the Fox "we" took part in the campaigns in the late 60s and 70s and it is now a very fine river.

My point is we do not need more sprawl.

As for my concern about soil, it is simply because I appreciate what we can grow around here. This is the garden of Eden. A few years ago my wife and I ran into an old couple on the nature trail. they were from the former Soviet Union. They were gathering berries form the trail and could not believe in America food just grew everywhere and told us of the hunger in their former country.

You put a building up and you kill the soil, which is a living entity. It takes many years to take dirt and turn it into soil again.

When you look at the world and you see how much land is actually productive you come to realize what a scarce commodity our soil really is. It just seems like a terrible waste to "kill it". And that is what a building does, it kills the soil beneath it.

Anonymous said...

6:37 - where does he stand on illegals aliens? I might go back if he stands against them.

Anonymous said...

It is my hope that when the Police move into their new building on Indian Trail, that they tear down the building on River St. and place a plaque for all the Officders,that worked there and gave the citizen of Aurora their best.

There are a lot of memories in that building and I again want it torn down and dedicatd to the Officers of the police dept who gave their all.

Sergeant Ralph (retired).

Anonymous said...

Old ways and non-essential services for a City. What do you think of the Aurora Preservation Commission and is it really needed in times like this.

Anonymous said...

Lets get rid of "preservation" and begin by tearing down the home you live in. I bet it's old.

Anonymous said...

People who are opposed to preservation are usually also opposed to all government.

It seems to be left over anger at anyone "telling them what to do with their property."

Not much concern for the common good.

Anonymous said...


It is my hope that when the Police move into their new building on Indian Trail, that they tear down the building on River St. and place a plaque for all the Officders,that worked there and gave the citizen of Aurora their best.


That would be a damn small list with the current crop. Maybe you were one of the good ones, but for most it is all about the MONEY, outrageous pensions and the UNION.

Like I said, my hat is off to you if you are different. But the ones I know, it is all about $$$$ and playing the system to maximize those $$$$.

Anonymous said...

Why do so many of Auroras police live in $500,000.00 mansions in Yorkville? Must be the low salaries that attracts them to live such a high life style. Teachers, firemen, police all giving the false impression of being underpaid...well they sure don't live like it.

Anonymous said...

Why don't the police live in the city that pays them? They say it's too dangerous for their families.

Might be safer if they shared the risk.

Anonymous said...

Aurora Police make far above the median salary for college graduates and they are not required to have a college degree, nor is it needed to do the job. By any objective measure they are overpaid by a wide margin.

Anonymous said...

It should be a requirement for all city employees to live in the city that they work for.

Not enough loyalty if they skip town at 5 pm.

Anonymous said...

The police used to have to have residency to work here. Who changed it??

Anonymous said...

Hey 9:42-

Let's get rid of "preservation" by bouncing the whole department. It certainly meets the "modern" criteria of being non-essential and frivolous and thus worthy of the municipal ax. I don't even have to "bet" when making those statement, because they are facts.

But before it withers away and dies, let's require its advocates to remimburse the City for the $350,000 that it wasted as a "gift" to the owner of the old Masonic Temple.

What a spectacular display of sound fiscal stewardship and professional judgement that was. Worthy of a presevation award in the category of funding the "best project of non-existent economic reality."

Was the owner paid in Revolutionary War bonds? Or was it Confederate currency minted in Virginia? Don't tell me payment was made in moden currency and hard-earned American dollars that were coughed up by the taxpayers.

Check, please?

Leonard said...

As I rhe rule regarding residency for city employees was changed during the David Pierce administration.

Anonymous said...

The $350K that was given to the Masonic Temple was not done by the Preservation Dept. In fact it was opposed by members. Preservation does not have funds for anything like that.

The city councel did that and it was a terribly stupid move.

Anonymous said...

Right, like the Aurora City Council gives away money independently without any recommendations from City Departments. Doesn't happen that way, Clyde.

Are you saying that the Preservation people working for the City were not behind this? If not, who was? Did the owner ask for the money? Did the $350,000jump out from the City money box and land up the hill on Benton Street through a miracle? Or did a member of the City Council hatch the proposal to give away the funds?

Funny how you want to back away from what was obviously someone's decision at the City to at least recommend that the money be forked over to the owner. But go ahead, blame it on the City Council. I wonder if the Council members even knew what they were sigining and agreeing to and how they were advised.

Somebodies recommended the gift at the City and it the money could only be expected to be paid back in a fantasy world.

Now, please I must get back for my roll of the dice and my turn at the monopoly table.

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting for some investigative reporter to research just how much of the taxpayers dollars were given to "favored" friends of the mayors and city council. But alas there are no longer any such reporters only those who wish to express their opinions so they can save the world from itself.

Anonymous said...

Please read and understand the constitution of the United States of America. If you do that then you'll forget all the feel good hogwash the liberals are trying to force down our throats. Protect us, defend us and defend our rights. Don't forse us under your rule. We're Citizens, not subjects.
Chris