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Plainfield board OKs Baci sale, despite marketing questions raised

Brock A. Stein | 10/20/2015, 11:27 a.m. | Updated on 10/20/2015, 10:29 a.m.
After two years on the market, Plainfield officials have approved the sale of the former Baci Restaurant building downtown.
The village of Plainfield has sold the former Baci Restaurant on downtown Lockport Street to an investment group.

Plainfield trustees Monday approved the sale of the former Baci Restaurant building for $185,000, despite questions being raised about how the village marketed the property and if it could have been sold more money

The buyers are an investment group called CMRV, one of whom is local developer Michael Vaughn, owner of HopScotch & Vine, Simply Saucy, What’s New and 3 Chic’s Boutique in downtown Plainfield.

The sale is scheduled to close on Dec. 23, according to village documents. Plainfield planner Mike Garrigan said Monday that the building at 24018 W. Lockport St. will be restored and used as a restaurant once again.

Trustee Ed O’Rourke cast the only vote against the deal, questioning whether the building would have fetched a higher price had it been more actively marketed. There was no "for sale" sign on the building and it wasn’t listed on the village’s website, he said.

“My concern was the process in which we went about trying to get the best price,” O’Rourke said.

Real estate website, Zillow.com, lists the estimated property value at $159,000.

The village purchased the building for $108,000 in 2012, two years after the restaurant closed and the property went into foreclosure. It invested another $75,000 in fixing the roof, removing mold and doing other work to bring it up to code.

Trustee Bill Lamb said the building is an important part of the village's history -- it was built by the Universalist Church in 1868 and was sold to St. Mary’s Catholic Church in 1912 -- and requires a buyer who will preserve it and its unique features, such as its stained glass windows.

“The most important thing is that it’s being preserved,” Lamb said. “To put something else there would be a serious error.”

Trustee Jim Racich agreed, adding that in the three years the village has owned it, there hasn’t seen a great deal of interest from developers looking to preserve the building's historic charm.

“People have not been lining up to buy it,” said Racich, who attended the church there before it was sold in the 1970s and became an Italian restaurant.

The village board was in a Catch-22 situation when it decided to buy the structure, knowing that residents would be “outraged” if the building was torn down but also aware that they would want the village to recoup the expense, he said.

The end result, he said, is “the community will still have the old St. Mary’s church building instead of a vacant lot.”

“It does have an awful lot of meaning for people in this community,” Racich said.

The village's goal since buying the property has always been to “preserve the building and get it back on the tax roles,” Village Planner Michael Garrigan said.

Before that happened, two different owners attempted to sell the building -- one for $800,000 and the other for $319,000 -- but had no luck. Baci foundered right after the economy went bad, done in by that and years of struggling to attract customers deterred by the Route 59 reconstruction work.

The village though it had a buyer in 2013, but the deal to sell it to a developer who wanted to open a seafood restaurant fell through, Garrigan said.

Contact Brock A. Stein at brock@thetimesweekly.com or on Twitter at @BrockAStein.