Venture tied to Arka Express buys four Homan Square properties

The properties include 600K sf of former offices, a massive parking garage and vacant land

Former Sears Administration Building at 3333 West Arthington Street (Credit: NRC Realty & Capital Advisors)
Former Sears Administration Building at 3333 West Arthington Street (Credit: NRC Realty & Capital Advisors)

UPDATE, Aug. 24, 1:50 p.m.: A venture tied to south-suburban trucking company Arka Express paid $3.25 million to acquire four vacant properties at Homan Square, juicing an ongoing revival for the one-time headquarters of Sears Roebuck and economic engine of North Lawndale.

Royal Imperial Group sold the 281,000-square-foot former Sears administration building, the 324,000-square-foot former Allstate headquarters, a 1,150 space parking garage and 3.4 acres of vacant land near the corner of Spaulding Avenue and Arthington Street, according to David Levy of NRC Realty & Capital Advisors, who brokered the deal on the seller’s behalf.

Both the five-story Sears building and the 11-story Allstate building have been vacant and deteriorating for decades.

Former Allstate Headquarters at 3245 West Arthington Street (Credit: NRC Realty & Capital Advisors)

Crain’s first reported the deal on Wednesday.

Royal Imperial Group bought the properties, plus a former mail-order plant on the campus, in 2004 from a non-profit group led by developer Charles Shaw, according to Cook County property records. The company teamed up in 2014 with Mercy Housing on a $65 million redevelopment of the plant, opening 181 affordable apartments in the building last year.

The apartments were 100 percent occupied within three months of their completion, “validating the need and opportunity in the market” for development around the northeast corner of North Lawndale, Levy said.

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“The buyers are entrepreneurial, and they really saw the value of this location and what these properties mean for the area,” Levy said. “It’s an immense amount of space just a few blocks from the [CTA’s] Blue Line and [Interstate] 290, so it’s just a matter of time before even more development moves into the neighborhood.”

The buyer is listed in property records as an LLC led by Arnold Kozys, CEO of the Markham-based Arka Express, and Vitalijus Kaleinikovas.

Levy said the new owners haven’t disclosed their plans for the properties, but the century-old brick buildings would “require really extensive renovations” to get up to par with modern standards.

Life has been trickling back into Homan Square since 1995, when Shaw chartered his foundation and began drawing up redevelopment plans for the abandoned industrial-era complex. The foundation raised nearly $30 million for the construction of the 70,000-square-foot Homan Square Community Center, which opened in 2001.

The Shaw Technological and Learning Center opened in Sears’ former power plant building in 2009, and a YMCA opened next door a year later.

The skinny 14-story tower at the center of the campus — known as the Sears Tower from its 1905 construction until the company moved to the present-day Willis Tower in 1973 — re-opened in 2015 as the Nichols Tower, where it now hosts 10 non-profit and community group tenants.

This article has been updated to clarify the buyer of the property.

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