SKOKIE, IL — The vacant iron foundry across the street from Niles West High School is set to be demolished and replaced with an industrial development designed to be attractive to e-commerce companies.
Last month, the Skokie Village Board approved a property tax incentive for the 12.5 acre former Castwell Products site at 7800 Austin Ave., which went out of business earlier this year after nearly 75 years at the site.
“The existing building is functionally obsolete, as it was constructed specifically for Castwell Products, which ceased operations in March of this year, and does not conform to the current needs of today’s potential industrial occupants,” Village Manager John Lockerby told trustees.
“Due to the functional obsolescence of the property, it is highly unlikely that the current building will be re-leased or purchased by another user, and as such will continue to decline in value and may remain vacant for a long period of time,” he said.
The 12-year Cook County class 6b incentive will reduce the property’s taxable value by 60 percent for the next 10 years before gradually rising back toward market value over its final two years. The program is intended to boost industrial development by encouraging investment in new construction and rehabilitation of older buildings.
Recommending the tax incentive be granted, the village manager said the property currently has an assessed value of $1.7 million and pays $411,000 annually in property taxes. Lockerby said village staff anticipate the site’s assessed value will eventually rise to $2,175,000, which will produce more than $475,000 in additional property taxes.
“Thus, even with the class 6b in place, this is over 28 percent higher than what the properties would generate if the buildings were to remain vacant,” he said. “This development investment will not occur without the class 6b designation.”
Bridge Development Partners, a Chicago-based industrial development company founded in 2000 by Steve Poulos, plans immediately begin demolishing the existing facility and erecting a 171,746-square-foot structure on its site.
Chicago Regional Partner Nick Siegel said the property is located in a prime location that will appeal to distribution and e-commerce companies.
“I think it’s exciting because we’re going to tear down a blighted manufacturing building and build a modern new product,” Siegel said.
The new building, dubbed Bridge Point Skokie, will be designed with 32-foot ceilings, 31 trailer positions, at least 25 exterior docks and parking for 300 cars. The speculative development should be able to accommodate up to three different companies, Siegel said.
“We’re either going to bring in a corporation that isn’t currently in Skokie and is bringing new jobs and new employees and new users to the village,” he said. “Or you’re going to see a user who couldn’t find product they were looking for within the village — and was potentially going to have to leave Skokie — be able to stay because of our product.”
Bridge Development went under contract to purchase the property from Castwell around late April. The $6.7 million deal closed Tuesday.
It will be the firm’s 20th industrial development in the Chicago area. So far, three have become Amazon facilities, including those in Cicero, Downers Grove and Waukegan.
Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen said the new development will improve the village’s competitiveness in the light industrial market and strengthen its already diverse economy.
“In this challenging economic time, the Village is fortunate to have a well-regarded firm like Bridge Development undertaking this Class A light industrial development, discussions for which began just weeks after Castwell announced its closing earlier this year,” Van Dusen said in a statement after the deal closed.
Patch first reported in December 2019 that Castwell planned to lay off all its employees and wind down operations, citing challenges from economic changes in the precision casting industry.
RELATED: Nearly 150 Workers To Be Laid Off As Skokie Foundry Shutters
The village board also signed off on a resubdivision and zoning map amendment at its Nov. 2 meeting.
According to a memo from village planning staff, the subdivision will allow for Austin Avenue to run from Oakton Street to Howard Street instead of dead-ending, which is a goal of Skokie’s comprehensive plan.
The property is not heavily contaminated and requires only minor asbestos removal, Siegel said. He anticipated interior demolition would begin this month, with exterior work visible to passersby by about February.
The Bridge Point Skokie project is expected to be fully complete sometime after June 2021.
Village staff said the total anticipated investment on the project was $22 million. Once it is complete, the building is expected to provide the equivalent of 172 full-time positions on an ongoing basis, in addition to at least 75 construction jobs while it’s being built.
According to the developer, the village has been supportive of the project throughout the process.
“The village of Skokie, in particular, has been one of the best we’ve worked with, from the staff to the board members,” he told Patch. “They’ve been logical, they’ve been easy to work with, they understand what we’re doing, they’re supportive of our development, and they’ve really made the process straightforward — which you don’t always find and which you always appreciated.”