The Chicago Heights City Council unanimously agreed that the city should execute a deal that will give it ownership of the building housing the .
The building, at 1527 Otto Blvd., was foreclosed upon in January of 2010, when the previous owner had accumulated more than $250,000 in back taxes. A private bank took ownership of the building at that time.
"The taxes were so high, (the owner) was hoping to rent to a non-profit and be considered a non-profit and not pay taxes," Union Street Gallery Board President Mike "Pete" Petrouski said. "It doesn't work that way."
Petrouski said the private bank that has owned the building since then has tried to sell it to the Gallery at prices well above $500,000 before lowering the price to $350,000, still with no success.
"We're just trying to make our rent payments from year to year," Petrouski said. "There's no way we could afford that."
So the City of Chicago Heights executed a deal with the bank to free it of the property, as well as the astronomical back taxes, with full support from the city council.
"The bank has no desire to be in the real estate market," Corporate Counsel T.J. Somer said. "I think it's really important that we preserve this fine institution."
The next step, according to Somer and Mayor David Gonzalez, could be to forgive the taxes and transfer ownership to the Union Street Gallery Board of Directors for a nominal amount (as low as $1) or to come up with some other mutually beneficial agreement.
"We're happy to see they're stepping in," Petrouski said. "We need to come up with whatever is the best deal for both parties. If we take ownership, we'll be good owners."
If the Gallery ends up owning the building, Petrouski said the first order of business will be to make some long overdue repairs.
"There's deferred maintenance that needs to be taken care of," he said. "It's been a good home. We hope to stay there."