Judge orders city to cough up millions in ongoing River West eminent domain saga

Businessman Fred Eychaner rejected an initial offer of $825,000 for his land. Now he’ll get more than $7 million

Fred Eychaner and an aerial view of the property at 460-468 North Jefferson Street (Credit: Capital Research Center and Google Maps)
Fred Eychaner and an aerial view of the property at 460-468 North Jefferson Street (Credit: Capital Research Center and Google Maps)

The city of Chicago was ordered to pay businessman Fred Eychaner $7.1 million for River West land the city seized through eminent domain, potentially ending a 13-year battle over the property.

City officials in 2005 moved to seize Eychaner’s vacant parcel at 460-468 North Jefferson Street in an effort to help nearby Blommer Chocolate Company expand its campus. The eminent domain action came after the chocolate company’s offer to buy Eychaner’s land for $825,000 was rejected, according to the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.

Eychaner fought the use of eminent domain to seize his land, setting off a years-long legal battle over the property and its value. A court upheld the city’s use of eminent domain in the case, but it rejected the city’s assessment of the land’s value, according to reports.

Eventually a jury awarded Eychaner $2.5 million for the land, but he appealed that amount.

The battle culminated with a judge’s order to award Eychaner $7.1 million plus interest, according to a court order issued Dec. 18.

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Eychaner, a businessman and philanthropist who founded printing company Newsweb, could not be reached for comment, and his attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for the Chicago Department of Law did not immediately return a request seeking comment.

The area of River West that includes the Blommer Chocolate factory and Eychaner’s former land has undergone a transformation since the legal saga began.

In 2016, Akara Partners and CA Ventures completed a 227-unit apartment tower in the neighborhood, a property the partners listed for the second time this fall. A block north, Tandem Partners and Rambaud Holdings are building a 23-story mixed-use project at 730 North Milwaukee Avenue.

Also nearby, Tribune Media Company is planning a redevelopment of its printing plant into a 30-acre campus with up to 9 million square feet of residential, retail and office space.

The family that owned Blommer Chocolate Co. sold the company late last year to Japan-based Fuji Oil Holdings. The company’s River West factory is well known in Chicago for frequently wafting the smell of chocolate through Downtown when the wind is right.