Aurora Considers New Housing Deal

This rendering shows the part of the 80 S. River St. property in downtown Aurora that fronts onto the Fox River. (Metro West Developers)

By Steve Lord / The Beacon News

The Aurora City Council is considering a development agreement with what one city official called a local “dream team” for the former West Aurora School District administration building.

80 S. River St. is the former West Aurora School District administration center. It is a large, old commercial manufacturing warehouse on a corner lot.
The vacant building at 80 S. River St. is the former West Aurora School District administration center.
(Steve Lord / The Beacon-News)

Aldermen on the Finance Committee this week recommended the deal 3-0 for the property at 80 S. River St., which is on the northeast corner of River and Benton Street. It would include about 17,000 square feet of commercial space on the first floor – for which the developers already have promises to lease – and a second floor with 22 apartments that would rent for about $1,200 a month.

Alex Alexandrou, Aurora’s chief management officer, told the Finance Committee the development is the kind that would draw professionals and create foot traffic downtown.

“We have long talked about adaptive reuse,” he said. “This could be a real energizing force on that block.”

The “dream team,” as coined by David Dibo, Aurora’s Economic Development director, is the partnership that has created Metro West Developers, and includes Mike Russ, owner of Aurora Wiring & Fixture on Union Street; Russ Woerman, a construction company owner; and Mike Poulakidas, a local attorney. Woerman and Poulakidas are also partners in Fox Valley Developers, the group remediating and hoping to redevelop the old Copley Hospital building on Lincoln Avenue.

“We want to be part of the heartbeat of Aurora,” Poulakidas said. “We are already vested in Aurora.”

Poulakidas said the partnership already has commitments to lease between 75 and 80 percent of the first floor commercial space, including Aurora Wire, and Kluber Architecture, which would move its home office to Aurora from Batavia. Another possible commitment could make the commercial part of the project 100 percent leased by the time renovation begins, he said.

The development rendering does show an open area, like a green plaza, between the 80 S. River St. property and the next building, where right now there are overgrown bushes and trees.

Aldermen and city officials said they could include language in the agreement about an eventual Riverwalk component.

Overall, Finance Committee aldermen endorsed the development agreement, although Ald. Robert O’Connor, at large, Finance Committee chairman, did note that it is “a significant contribution from the city of Aurora.” Still, he said it’s a good sign the partnership “right off the bat has tenancy lined up.”

Ald. Richard Mervine, 8th Ward, said he applauded “the idea of repurposing this property.”

“The whole (downtown) master plan is coming together; it’s kind of exciting,” said Ald. Edward Bugg, 9th Ward. “We have to strike while it’s there.”

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