The Chamber Of Commerce…Or Of Non-Profit?


This week’s Park Ridge Journal reports on the new Park Ridge Nonprofit Center at 720 Garden Street, which has landed the Park Ridge Chamber of Commerce as its “anchor” tenant. (“Park Ridge Chamber Keen On New Building,” Sept. 23)

For those keeping score, this is the former home of American Insurance Agency and one of the buildings that former mayor Howard Frimark was secretly negotiating for the City to acquire as the site for the big new police station he and several aldermen were trying to shove down the taxpayers’ throats – until a citizen-led petition drive put a cop shop referendum question on last April’s ballot after the City Council refused the citizens’ (and then-Ald. Dave Schmidt’s) requests that the Council put the question on the ballot.  

Even though it was just an advisory referendum, its overwhelming rejection by the voters, combined with Frimark’s loss to Schmidt in the mayoral election, has put at least a temporary halt on that misguided project.  And that turned out to be a very good thing indeed, because the new cop shop would have added another $1 million-plus a year to the multi-million dollar budget deficits the City was already running under Frimark. 

According to the Journal story, the Chamber is gushing about the Center’s huge event rooms, smaller meeting rooms, and space for several other organizations for offices or storage. And the Chamber’s executive director, Gail Haller, is already talking about hosting “events and…traveling art exhibits.”

That’s just swell, really it is.  But given Park Ridge’s historically underwhelming performance in drawing and supporting tax-generating businesses to our community, doesn’t the Chamber have better things to do than serving as an entertainment booking agent – or than, as the Journal reports, managing and maintaining the 720 Garden building for Park Ridge Nonprofit Center [pdf] (“PRNC”), an Illinois not-for-profit corporation organized in March, 2008, and whose registered agent is the consummate Park Ridge insider, attorney John E. “Jack” Owens? 

Which causes us to wonder why the usually solid Journal reporter, Craig Adams, didn’t include some important information about 720 Garden’s new status, like: “Who actually owns the property?” And: “Will the new ownership and use affect the property taxes paid on the property?” And even: “How does the Chamber’s leaving 32 Main Street affect that property’s economics?”

We raised such concerns about 720 Garden in our post “Another Real Estate Sham…Wow! (05.29.09) and we still think they are significant ones, given that the Cook County Assessor’s office currently lists that property [pdf] as two parcels having a combined assessed value of $277,902, although the parcel valued at $72,262 carries a class code of 4-90, for “Not for profit other minor improvements,” while the larger parcel’s 5-92 code is for “Two or three story building containing part or all retail and/or commercial space.”

As a community, Park Ridge needs to be very concerned and circumspect about anything that could reduce rather than increase property tax revenues to a financially-troubled City government, and to the schools which rely almost entirely on property tax revenues for their operations.  Ostensibly, that was the principal driving force behind the Uptown TIF and PRC’s mixed-use development in Uptown.

We believe that while Park Ridge has historically been a haven for a number of non-profits who have contributed to the character of our community, it sure wouldn’t hurt for the City to focus more on attracting and retaining for profit entities and activities.  And we would expect our local Chamber of Commerce to be a leader in that effort.

Which is why we wonder, if only a little bit, about the Chamber and 720 Garden.

1 comment so far

Cook County Recorder of Deeds website shows 6/5/09
Grantee John R. Sasser TR Trust 720

Grantor U S Bk Tr/765

Dollar amount of $950,000.

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