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Grand possibility for rail terminal site in South Loop

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February 14, 2001 The biggest empty chunk of downtown Chicago is for sale, ready for somebody to take a chance on a future cycle of real estate growth, David Roeder wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times. Buyers should bring cash, great credit and patience.

The property is eight acres
at the southwest corner of Harrison and Wells, which several investors have
taken a crack at. It has been vacant since 1971, when the Grand Central Station
rail terminal was torn down, to the horror of people who loved the architecture.

Russland Capital Group Inc.
of Skokie owns the largest part of the tract, 6.6 acres, and is marketing it
for $41 million. The remaining 1.5 acres is at the corner. Its owner, D2 Realty
Services Inc., is trying to sell it, but a price could not be learned. It had
tried to peddle it for $15 million, but the contract never closed.

Russland’s part includes
frontage on the Chicago River, so developers have eyed it for a residential and
retail mix. The housing collapse and credit squeeze upset those plans.

Jacob Bletnitsky, Russland
president, said his firm doesn’t want to hold the land for the next boom.
"We’re developers. We have other uses for the cash, and this is very
expensive property to keep," he said.

Bletnitsky said Russland
paid $34 million for the site two years ago and that valuations have veered
wildly. He said that a few months after he bought it, Dubai investors offered
him $100 million. He said they were working on the contract before the Dubai
economy collapsed.

To market the property,
Russland has hired Rick Levin & Associates Inc. The firm is best known for
auctioning properties, but President Rick Levin said he is selling the parcel
conventionally.

The land is just south of
the city’s financial markets. Levin said it would be the logical place for
downtown to expand when the economy improves.

Bonnie Sanchez-Carlson,
president of the Near South Planning Board, said neighbors probably will resist
a zoning plan for the site that calls for a massive dose of housing. She said
the South Loop has too many unsold condos.

Ald. Robert Fioretti, whose
2nd Ward includes the site, said the river exposure makes the land attractive
for new homes. But he said he would resist high-rises because too many have
been built, bringing congestion to the South Loop.

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