About the Cancellation
The nonprofit, which provides services to people with autism, terminated the purchase agreement after the process to demolish historic buildings was changed in June.
“We can’t maximize the value of this asset unless we’re able to do that,” said Little Friends President and CEO Mike Briggs. “And the intention with what we’re trying to do is, we’re not cash rich, let’s not pretend that we are. So this is the single most significant asset that we have as an organization and because of that that’s the reason why we’re doing what we’re doing.”
The Rezoning Delay
North Central asked Little Friends to rezone the property to college/university instead of its current residential zoning, in order to purchase the property and build a three-story health sciences building.
But that decision was delayed in city council, which was concerned with the broad parameters in the college/university zoning.
“I have incredible respect for North Central College,” said Briggs. “I understand their position, I understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. But it’s a business decision. And the reality is they made a business decision that was in the best interest of their organization and I respect that. At the same time we have to make a business decision that’s in the best interest of Little Friends.”
NCC’s Letter to Neighbors
NCC sent a letter to neighbors when the agreement was recently terminated, saying:
“While we were – and remain – interested in acquiring the property for the college’s evolving needs, we respect the little friends request to terminate the agreement and pursue other options as it works toward completing its relocation. North Central College will remain supportive of the entire little friends community.”
Little Friends’ Plans
Little Friends now looks to demolish and sell its four-acre property at 140 S. Wright Street in order to move to a new facility in Warrenville next year.
“We need the proceeds from this sale to be able to cover the cost of the new building that we want to acquire,” added Briggs.
Little Friends will have to present a petition to the historic preservation commission and city council to get permission to demolish its four buildings.
The Kroehler Mansion
That includes the Kroehler Mansion – a 1909 home where furniture company leader Peter Kroehler lived for a year.
But the organization isn’t opposed to other options for the historic building.
“We’ve offered the building to the City of Naperville,” he said. “We’ve offered them to come in and in June of 2020 when we plan to move, to pick it up and move it to another location. We’ve offered to sell a piece of property to the city to be able to move it to that.”
Briggs says artifacts from the home were also offered to the Naperville Heritage Society. All of those options will be discussed at a future presentation to the city.
Next for Little Friends
But for now, Little Friends will be marketed as a residential-zoned property, hopeful to find a buyer to enable the move to its new facility on Diehl Road and Mill Street next year.
“We do incredible work and the people who do the heavy lifting deserve so much credit,” said Briggs. “But what if, and imagine what they could do if we had a better facility that enabled us to be able to be in the 21st century compared to the building that we have to work in.”
Briggs says the marketing of the Little Friends property should begin in the next few weeks.
Naperville News 17’s Christine Lena reports.
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