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Ridge mayor hopeful compromise can be reached for old Yellow site

  • Written by Laura Bollin

  Chicago Ridge village officials plan to establish a special taxing district in the northwest part of town with the hope doing so will spur the redevelopment of an abandoned truck terminal and several other properties.

  The village, though, first hopes to reach some sort of agreement with the terminal’s owner.
  The Chicago Ridge Village Board met in executive session during a special meeting held June 3 to discuss the property and possible litigation against YRC Freight — formerly Yellow Freight, which operated the now-shuttered trucking terminal at 103rd Street and Harlem Avenue. Yellow abandoned the property in 2008 when it moved its Chicago-area terminal to Ford Heights.
  Six months ago, representatives from YRC Freight sent a letter to Chicago Ridge officials expressing interest in reopening the terminal; however, the company would in order to do so have to conduct traffic studies, a landscaping proposal and environmental reports, and provide Chicago Ridge other before the Village Board would even consider granting YRC Freight a business license. The company responded two weeks ago with a brief traffic study and landscaping proposal, but not all of the information that was requested, according to Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar.
  A condemnation lawsuit, in which the village would use the powers of eminent domain to condemn the property for its own use, would be a last resort for the village, Tokar said. The village would first have to create a tax increment financing (TIF) district that includes the YRC property.
  “It’s always better to negotiate than litigate,” Tokar said, adding that the village has no plans for such a lawsuit at this time.
  “We are putting together a resolution to induce them to come to a compromise on the use of the property,” Tokar said. “The highest and best use of the property on Harlem Avenue is certainly not a trucking terminal. It should include commercial and mixed-use office space. You don’t see many new trucking terminals.”
  A TIF district would be beneficial to the village, Tokar said. The proposed TIF district would be bounded by Southwest Highway, Harlem Avenue and Interstate 294 and would include the former Aldi grocery store site. Such a district would have no impact on retail businesses along Southwest Highway or the Animal Welfare League, 10305 Southwest Highway, Tokar said.
  Chicago Ridge Trustee Jack Lind said the village wants the properties redeveloped to help the village bring in more tax revenues.
  “We’d like to develop that whole area there into an economic engine for the future,” Lind said. “Right now, that whole piece of Harlem Avenue is underachieving tax-wise, because there is not much there. You look across the street and see big retail stores. I think we could compete in the retail market with that whole Yellow Freight property.”
  Lind said the village wants to work with YRC Freight to figure out a better use for the property than a trucking terminal. He would like to see big box stores or a discount mall on the site, he acknowledged.
  “People now have to go to Wisconsin or Indiana to go to a discount mall, because we don’t have anything like that,” he said. “I think that would be tremendous.
  “A trucking terminal doesn’t bring any substantial revenue back to the village. We want to reinvent that property and make it into something that will help the village in the years to come. We owe it to the taxpayers to get the bet bang for our buck along that strip of Harlem Avenue.”
  Trustee Dan Badon believes outlet stores would be a good use for the property, and is concerned YRC might not want to use the property as a trucking terminal.
  “I don’t know if it is a ploy to get the value of the property up or not,” Badon said. “They are thinking of coming back in with the trucking business, but people might say that is not the best use for the property. I don’t know if they are sincere in wanting to put a trucking company back in there.”