Council members discuss offers on prime city lot

Published 2:51 pm Thursday, September 4, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- The Niles City Council on Wednesday discussed an offer made by Leader Publications LLC to purchase the property at the corner of Fifth and Main streets in Niles.
During the meeting, Doug Phares, president of Leader Publications, which owns and operates the Niles Daily Star and is the largest employer in downtown Niles, gave a presentation of the company's plans to turn the property into a parking lot.
The property was formerly the location of Gary's Standard Service Station. They purchased the property several years ago, demolished the service station building and cleaned up the property.
Phares told the city council Leader Publications is interested in the property because it fits well with the future plans of the company.
Although there has been no formal appraisal, Phares offered $25,000 for the property.
In addition to fitting well with the company's future plans, Phares said a new parking lot would also improve parking availability for the company's employees in Niles.
He also hopes the parking lot would help free up parking spaces in other downtown parking spaces, especially on Sycamore Street.
Phares said development of the property into a parking lot would be consistent with the renaissance style of the downtown area in a way that reflects the original architectural style here.
However, two council members expressed concern about such a visible piece of property in the heart of downtown Niles becoming a parking lot.
Dan Vanden Heede, second ward council member, said he is concerned a parking lot wouldn't add much to the city's tax base.
Council member Pat Gallagher, however, said she doesn't want to see the property turned into a parking lot at all.
Gallagher said several members of the community, who feel Riverfront is not the ideal place for the planned memorial, are of the same opinion.
Terry Eull, city administrator, said there are several issues that need to be addressed before the city council can make a decision on the sale of the property.
One of those issues, he said, includes finding out what plans the Department of Environmental Quality has for the five or six well-heads currently located on the property.
In addition, other people have also shown an interest in the property and the city council will have to find out what their plans are.
Mayor Mike McCauslin probably said what all council members thought during Wednesday's meeting.
Also present at the meeting was Bhola Singh, a businessman from Vandalia who owns several stores in Niles, including three stores in Niles Plaza, the Party Store on Fifth and Sycamore, Crocker Liquor on 17th Street and the Marathon Gas Station on East Main Street.
Singh, who wishes to buy both the Gary's lot and the lot next to it, said he would like to build two to three story office buildings on the properties.
He also said he would make the area visually pleasing with perhaps a water fountain and flowers.
His offer for the Gary's lot is $35,000.
Phares, who also said the parking lot would be created in a visually pleasing way and would contain 24-25 new parking spaces, told the city council he would like a response from them in regards to his offer by Sept. 15.
Eull said the city council will try to have a response ready by the next two to four weeks.