A Few More Thoughts On Mayor’s Veto Of 104 Main Street Special Use


What do Andrew Duff, Owen Hayes II, John Bennett and Ellen Upton have in common?

All four of them showed up at last week’s Park Ridge City Council meeting to speak against Mayor Marty Maloney’s veto of Pusheen, Inc’s special use for the ground-floor space in 104 Main Street. That veto came after a (4-2) majority of aldermen voted on June 4 to grant the special use, which was approved 7-0 by the City’s Planning & Zoning Commission (“P&Z”) back on April 24.

You can read our take on Maloney’s veto in our June 28, 2018 post.

That Duff and Hayes would show up and argue in support of the special use was expected.

Duff is the owner of Pusheen Corp. and his company already occupies the upper floor of 104 Main. He claims he wants the ground floor of the building so that deliverymen don’t have to hall boxes up to the second-floor.

How thoughtful.

When Hayes addressed the Council last week he initially introduced himself as just the “manager” of the 104 Main building. But beginning at the 27:56 mark of that Council meeting video he reveals himself as “not the owner but a part owner” of the property – as well as both a manager and an owner of other Park Ridge property.

That’s a bit curious because, according to Page 3 of the minutes of the April 24 P&Z meeting, Hayes identified himself as the “real estate agent representing the owner of the [104 Main] property,” as he also did in an April 13, 2018 e-mail to the City’s Senior Planner, Jon Branham. Compare that to the special use “Applicant Disclosure Statement” dated March 15, 2018, in which he lists 104 Main LLC as the property’s owner, while listing only himself in response to the request for “the name of every…[LLC] member.”

Should we just chalk that up as another one of those “Certs is a candy mint; Certs is a breath mint” moments in local government, or is there more to it than that?

For those who have been following City government for a decade or more, you might remember Hayes as the agent and…wait for it…undisclosed owner of the former Foot and Ankle Surgeons building at 515 Busse that he tried to flip to the City as the site of a new cop shop back in 2004. Had he succeeded, he would have netted a tidy $200,000 profit for only a few days of ownership, as you can read about in our 11.15.2007 post and our 08.14.2008 post

We also have heard rumors, seemingly corroborated by Hayes’ statement to the Council during last week’s meeting, that he is the agent and/or owner (full or part) of various other commercial properties in town. A cursory check of a random sampling of Uptown and vicinity properties shows that their ownership is often hidden – albeit legally, we might add – by title being held in the name of a partnership or LLC, like it is with 104 Main LLC. Consequently, some of the City’s property-related forms (like the special use “Applicant Disclosure Statement”) require disclosure of the “real” owners, not just the legal title holders.

But don’t get us wrong: We’ve got nothing against Hayes personally. He’s a nice enough guy who has been active in the community for many years. And there’s nothing wrong with making an honest buck, whether it be in real estate or any other business – even at the taxpayers’ expense – if fully disclosed. Hayes, however, seems more than a little preoccupied with keeping his (and others’) property ownership under the radar, even when he’s seeking special treatment from the City for one of those properties.

Although Hayes’ ownership of 104 Main explains his advocacy for the Council’s over-ride of Maloney’s veto of the special use, we must confess to being puzzled by Bennett’s appearance and the condescending tone he took from the very beginning of his comments at the 51:57 mark of the meeting video in lecturing/arguing for an over-ride of Maloney’s veto.

As a P&Z member he was one of seven at that commission’s April 24, 2018 meeting who voted – wrongly, as we pointed out in our 06.28.2018 post – in favor of Pusheen’s special use. At that point his work should have been finished. So his appearance before the Council was tantamount to a trial judge showing up before an appellate court panel and arguing that his decision should be affirmed.

That just doesn’t happen, even if nobody appears to have told Bennett.

But the most curious appearance was Upton’s, which immediately followed Bennett’s.

She introduced herself as a former 1st Ward alderman (from the late 1990s, as we recall) who chaired the Uptown Advisory Task Force that promoted the creation of the Uptown redevelopment project – although she conveniently left out her support of the City’s multi-million dollar bonded-debt “investment” in that project that is still on track to cost taxpayers millions of dollars because the revenue generated from that project has rarely come close to covering the debt service on the bonds the City issued to help out the developer. She also was a member of the City’s Ad Hoc Zoning Ordinance Re-Write Committee that made major revisions to the Zoning Code back in 2006, and also may have updated the Comprehensive Plan.

To the best of our knowledge and research, however, she has not addressed the Council on zoning issues ever since. At least not until now.

Is she that much of a Pusheen fan, or did she have other intentions?

If Hayes, Bennett and Upton are so committed to helping Park Ridge’s Zoning Code and/or the Comprehensive Plan move into the 21st Century, we encourage them to formally propose that the Council create another Ad Hoc Zoning Ordinance Re-Write Committee – and we encourage them to volunteer to become members of it.

But until that happens, the current Zoning Code and the current Comprehensive Plan provide the guidelines by which special uses are supposed to be measured. And as we’ve said about various other local ordinances, rules and plans: If you don’t like them, change them. Don’t just ignore them.

Or try to weasel your way around them.

To read or post comments, click on title.


7 comments so far

This makes me wonder how many local properties Hayes or others secretly control, and how that might affect the market. I understand that the assessed value of commercial property can be reduced because of vacant space, so there might be reasons for Dino to refuse to drop his rent and leave the Picwick space vacant.

EDITOR’S NOTE: As we understand IL property tax law, if the building is an income-producing property, its value for assessment purposes can be reduced because of vacancy rate.

Why would anybody leave property vacant just to reduce the tax liability?

EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s hard to say without knowing the specifics of each building and building owner, but we do know that vacant space can help justify a reduction in the assessed value of the property.

Hayes said Duff told him there are 18 empty storefronts in Uptown which shows there is not a demand for retail. Can anybody verify that and what the rents for those spaces might be?

EDITOR’S NOTE: What…don’t you trust Hayes and Duff?

Owen Hayes’ presentation (on the meeting video) includes his statement that Pusheen’s “walking around and looking survey” found 18 empty storefronts in Uptown. I don’t know where those came from because Hayes did not identify them and nobody on the Council cared enough to ask him.

Hayes whined about the 25′ width of 104 Main as making it undesirable for a restaurant or retail business, but Beer on the Wall looks to be no wider as does the main Harp & Fiddle bar/restaurant area.

Hayes pointed to the empty former Pick restaurant space, the Noodles space and the Le Peep’s space as evidence that there is no market in Uptown for restaurant space. But when Hayes said “no one can afford to wait” in denying that building owners might be keeping their properties vacant rather than lowering the rent, Ald. Mazzuca had a “Gotcha!” moment when he noted that at least those three restaurant space owners appeared to be doing just that. Hayes response was a limp “anything’s possible,” which he used repeatedly to hedge his negative pronouncements about the Uptown market.

I wonder in how many of those 18 supposedly vacant storefronts does Hayes have an ownership interest, and what kind of rents he is demanding?

Like kids throwing sand at each other in the sandbox at the 56:21 mark of the meeting video:

Maloney: “Did you recall when I vetoed the BP sign? That was also…”

Bennett: “Actually I didn’t even know about that until…”

Maloney: “That also, if you let me speak…”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Too many ignorant people are too eager to display their ignorance – like that Pusheen employee who spoke against Maloney’s veto but didn’t know the City’s “home rule” power is not its “home run” power.

18 empty store fronts?

Can’t be that many.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We don’t think so, either. But if somebody from Pusheen went around and counted them, they should have identified them by address so that number could be confirmed.

We’ve got some more inventory coming on the market guys! Word on da street is Shaker Furniture and John Sasser’s end space right around the corner from 104 Main can be added to the list of vacancies very soon. Sounds like a Home Run for the city if you ask me! We now have room for, like, at least three more, like, BEER BARS guyz!

Both somewhat narrow, but on the upside they actually have windows in the front and not a fortress-like facade of stone like 104. One of the genius voices here better get on the phone and tell Bob Solari how he should price his spaces since the socialistic mindset that passes for thinking on this blog would imply that the market participants (Hayes, Dino, Solari, etc) are completely clueless, don’t know how to price their own assets, can’t be trusted to find proper tenants, are secretive and conniving, own buildings they haven’t announced to the entire town, want to turn every vacant space into a new Cop Shop, but at the same time want to keep them vacant forever to get tax benefits, and on and on.

If only the city had a full-time person with a six-fig salary who could handle all these messy free market stuff, right Bernie!?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Free market capitalism – unlike the rigged crony crapitalism practiced by “insiders” and their politician-lackeys here in Illinois and elsewhere – makes every property owner the master of his/her domain.

So if Dino, Hayes or any other local commercial property owners/lessors/speculators don’t like how their rental property is performing, they’ve got three basic choices: (a) Lower the rent or give incentives to make it more tenantable; (b) sell it; or (c) let it sit empty and eat whatever losses they’re incurring until they are ready to choose (a) or (b). That goes for every local property owner with vacant commercial space.

If space is vacant, therefore, it’s because the landlord is okay with the vacancy for whatever reason(s) – including, to your point, the possibility that the owner is “clueless” – although we seriously doubt that describes Dino, Hayes, Solari, et al.

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