Lincoln Park Condo Deconversion Closes Is Neighboring Private School the Undisclosed Buyer?

Lincoln Park Condo Deconversion Closes

RE Journals reports that the firm of Avison Young has completed the sale of 317-325 W. Belden Avenue, a 19-unit condominium building in Lincoln Park, for an undisclosed sum, to an undisclosed buyer, who made an unsolicited offer. 

In addition to representing the homeowner’s association in the transaction negotiations, Avison Young principal James Hanson, vice president Jordan Mellovitz, and associate Marissa Rose—all based in the company’s Chicago office—educated the board and unit owners on the specifics of Section 15 of the Illinois Condominium Property Act, which governs deconversion sales, and advised on strategies to maximize the value of the building if all pertinent parties decided to pursue a sale. According to Hanson, “Having overseen several Section 15 sales recently, our team had a strong understanding of the investor demand for condominium buildings with deconversion potential, as well as how to structure transactions in a way that protects the interests of unit owners."

Avison Young negotiated economic terms that were more than 55% improved over the initial unsolicited offer, according to RE Journals; 100% of the unit owners voted in favor of the deconversion sale. Given previous reports on the transaction and subsequent purchase attempts at other neighboring buildings, it seems likely that the “undisclosed buyer” is adjacent private school Francis W. Parker at 330 W. Webster Ave. 

At a community meeting last month, representatives from the school revealed their plans to convert the condo building—which they reportedly purchased in the summer of 2019—into classrooms as part of an expansion that principal Dan Frank estimates will take about 10 years.

According to reporting by Block Club Chicago, the plan’s design—which includes maintaining the existing facade while converting the building’s courtyard into an atrium and building a bridge at the second-floor level to connect the building to the existing school over a shared alleyway—received general neighborhood support at the virtual community meeting. 

The building is part of an area that the city is currently considering for landmark district designation; Alderwoman Michele Smith, whose 43rd ward includes the discussed properties and whose office hosted the meeting, contends that Parker will wait until that process is complete before conducting any expansion construction. “Nothing is happening until we get some kind of conclusion about this landmarking,” she says.

However, Parker has gotten pushback for its expansion practices in the past. Last year and into the beginning of 2020, the school “covertly” bought six units at neighboring condominium Belden by the Park after its offer to purchase the building outright was rejected by the association. Belden by the Park owners subsequently sued Parker for what they allege was a “hostile takeover” attempt on the part of the school using straw buyers. The suit claims that the school, tuition at which starts at $30,000 per year for junior kindergarten, intends to usurp control of the board and effectuate a bulk sale over the objection of some owners. The plaintiffs also assert that the school’s “predatory” real estate maneuvers are negatively affecting their property values.   

Parker responded to last year’s purchase controversy in a written statement: “Francis W. Parker has not approached any individual unit owners and asked them to sell. Parker will continue to be a good neighbor and a valuable anchor in our community as we consider the future educational needs of our students in ways that respect our Lincoln Park community.” 

At the recent community meeting, Frank updated neighbors on their Belden by the Park plans: “We will own the units and continue to be available if any unit owners wish to sell to us. But we have no plans to do any kind of development on it. We’re really focused on the 317 building only.” Frank said the addition will likely house elementary or middle school students and allow Parker, which currently consists of 6 acres, to expand its enrollment by 80–100 people. The school’s current enrollment is about 930 students, according to Block Club Chicago.

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