Background: The Village of Justice had within its city limits an environmentally impacted property (abandoned gas station) that had been vacant since 1988. The property was taken over by a financial institution when the owner stopped paying the mortgage on the property. The property remained abandoned for over 20 years and the city considered it an eyesore. The Village of Justice is just one of many cities and villages with the problem of abandoned underground storage tanks in the Chicago Area.
Business Challenge: How does the Village of Justice with limited funds purchase the property? The financial institution was asking above market value and previous negotiations to purchase the property had stalled and failed. If the Village of Justice were to take possession of the property, what actions would be needed to clean up the property and get a clean bill of health without costing the city a considerable amount of money? Whom do they contact to help them in getting the property clean up environmentally? The challenge with properties with abandoned underground storage tanks in the Chicago Area is that the sale just doesn’t transfer the property title to the city, it also transfers the liability for any possible soil contamination that was not addressed by the previous owner.
Critical Factors: With the help of Village of Justice employee Jim Lurquin and Illinois Speaker Michael Madigan, a bill was passed in the Illinois State Legislature that would allow for the purchase of a distressed property for $1 if said property would be used for the benefit of the general public and would not be utilized for profit. In determining the next course of action of assessing the property and the removal of the tanks, the Village needed to contact an environmental consultant. The Village had conversations with several consultants but one stood out. The professionals at Eagle Environmental provided an assessment of the property and provided a solution that would both get the job done and minimize costs. The Village would utilize the Illinois LUST Fund to remove all remaining underground storage tanks and associated contamination.