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Wrigley factory sold; Jeanne Gang has designs on Hyde Park

6-29-04 Exteriors William Wrigley Co. building 3535 S. Ashland.  Phoby Brian JacksChicago Sun-Times

6-29-04, Exteriors of the William Wrigley Co. building at 3535 S. Ashland. Photo by Brian Jackson Chicago Sun-Times

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Updated: March 9, 2012 8:18AM

The news lately has included word that the Wrigley Building will be landmarked (finally) and Wrigley Field will get a lighted sign. Here’s something else Wrigley: the gum company’s sprawling old factory on the South Side is about to be sold.

The property covers 30 acres at 3535 S. Ashland. Two sources in industrial real estate said the buyer is Lombard-based Avgeris and Associates Inc., owner of a diverse array of commercial buildings here and in other states. The sources said an April closing is planned.

What’s intended for the site is unknown. City officials have been anxious to see jobs poured back into a location where 1,700 people got paychecks in the 1960s, and have held out hope for some high-tech or academic user. Rezoning it for a super-sized Walmart or a similar retailer might not fly.

Avgeris President James Avgeris declined to comment. The Wrigley company, part of Mars Inc., is the seller, and spokeswoman Melissa Weber said no deal has been finalized.

The property has been on the market since 2009, when the asking price was $19 million. I’m told it will trade for something closer to $5 million. CBRE Group Inc., which has marketed it, wouldn’t comment.

The property is in the 11th Ward but became an embarrassment for its favorite son, former Mayor Richard Daley. He said in 2002 that Wrigley agreed to keep the factory open in exchange for a subsidy to build a research center on Goose Island. Alas, Daley never got the commitment in writing. Wrigley closed the factory in 2006 after 95 years of production for Juicy Fruit, Spearmint and other products.

GANGWAY FOR GANG: If all goes as planned, architect Jeanne Gang’s first new high-rises since her celebrated Aqua tower will be in Hyde Park. Working with developer Antheus Capital LLC, Gang has fashioned two buildings to go southwest of Hyde Park Boulevard and Lake Park Avenue, across from a Metra station.

The design calls for 20- and nine-story towers arising from a three-story base that eventually is to get a Whole Foods. Zoning rules are in place, but financing and a subsidy deal with the city are still under discussion, said Peter Cassel, Antheus’ director of community development.

Cassel said he hopes to start the $145 million project early next year and deliver the 179 apartments beginning in the fall of 2014. Included in the design is 365 underground parking space, including spots for public use in the perpetually congested neighborhood.

It’s unlikely these buildings will attract the praise of Gang’s Aqua, which opened in 2009. But her Hyde Park work exhibits a similar attention to balconies and settings. She called the balconies “playful.” The taller tower includes column-free balconies in the corners, while some in the shorter building are shaded from the afternoon sun.

The project will be called City Hyde Park and Antheus will set aside 20 percent of the units for renters with low-to-moderate incomes.

The Village Center plaza on the property will be demolished.

CLEARING THE AIR: Amtrak and U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) have accused British developer Bill Davies of being partly responsible for the polluted air in Union Station. They said Davies, owner of the old Chicago Main Post Office, hasn’t maintained exhaust fans in the train tunnel that connects the building to the station.

But another tidbit from Amtrak’s lawsuit is that Davies has dragged his feet in paying electrical bills to run the fans. A 1931 agreement obligates the post office building’s owner to maintain the fans. A spokeswoman for Davies’ International Property Developers said the firm had contended Amtrak should chip in on the cost. She said the firm is now current on the electric bill and is paying the entire $22,000-per-month load.

It’s just one example of Davies’ huge and escalating carrying costs for the empty building, which he wants to redevelop as a retail, hotel and parking centerpiece for new high-rises.

Davies’s project manager, Martin Mulryan, said three of the 11 fans don’t work and that they are being repaired. He said the work is being done “even though we are still awaiting planning approval from the city.” Mulryan makes it sounds like he’s doing commuters a favor. But owners have to maintain buildings and honor contracts regardless of zoning applications.

PLAYING CATCHUP: Fifield Cos. said it and its partner, Pacific Life Insurance Co., have sold their apartment tower at 353 N. Desplaines to Miami-based Crescent Heights for $104.5 million. Called Echelon at K Station, the 350-unit building opened in 2008 and is 95 percent leased.

Steven Fifield, president of Fifield Cos., nearly portrays it as a fixer-upper, however. He called it a “value add” opportunity for Crescent to improve the building’s finishes and amenities to make it more competitive with downtown buildings that opened after 2008.

Fifield Senior Vice President Alan Schachtman expanded on that point, saying that construction costs were high when the building was started in 2006. When they fell for later projects, Fifield could provide more upgrades in its subsequent buildings in the West Loop.

Echelon rents start at $1,565 per month and it appears Crescent Heights is betting it can command more soon.

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