Picket signs save picket fences: Transwestern rebuffed by Chicago suburb

Developer informed village of Itasca that it was dropping plans

Transwestern Vice President Ted Staszak and picket signs in Medinah (Transwestern, Change.org/Anna R., Getty)
Transwestern Vice President Ted Staszak and picket signs in Medinah (Transwestern, Change.org/Anna R., Getty)

After months of protests by Medinah residents, Transwestern Development dropped its bid to buy out homeowners so it could build a large industrial complex in the unincorporated community.

The Houston-based development company sent a letter to Itasca officials that said it “decided not to pursue acquisition and redevelopment” of the Medinah Terrace residential subdivision, the Daily Herald reported.

Earlier this year, Transwestern proposed tearing down almost 150 homes, which the company would have bought from residents at $22.50 per square foot of land to replace with a large industrial park that would have been built across three phases. The plan was to annex the 138 acres into the nearby village of Itasca.

“Transwestern Development Company has made the decision that, primarily due to changing market conditions, our pursuit of a potential redevelopment of Medinah Terrace is not economically feasible,” Transwestern Vice President Ted Staszak and Regional Partner Darcie Fankhauser wrote in the letter. “We will no longer pursue purchasing any of the homes in our Phase One area or any other homes in the Medinah Terrace location.”

As an unincorporated community, Medinah doesn’t have any municipal leaders, therefore residents often govern themselves in situations like this. This summer, when some of the Medinah residents received letters from Transwestern offering to buy out their properties, opponents organized and responded with their own signed letter saying they would reject any solicitations from the developer.

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Transwestern’s decision to avoid trying to overcome the opposition helps illustrate the ceiling on costs and obstacles developers are willing to endure to obtain increasingly scarce land for industrial construction as rental rates for warehousing have skyrocketed amid record demand and all-time-low vacancies in the Chicago industrial market during the pandemic.

Dodging the headache of dealing with the Medinah opponents stands in contrast to Nevada-based Dermody Properties completing its $232 million purchase of the 232-acre former Allstate office campus in suburban Glenview. A fight between neighboring suburbs over which village the property would be annexed into broke out over the summer, but it was resolved and Dermody still closed with its plan to redevelop it as a massive, 10-building warehouse campus.

Medinah residents aren’t convinced Itasca will subdue future pitches to developers who could annex the land into the village as part of a new development.

“The fact that we got Transwestern to pull out, Itasca has to understand that if they come after us with another developer, whether it’s developer A, B or C, we’re going to fight them again, and we’re going to fight back even harder,” Medinah resident Susie vander Nat told the outlet.

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— Victoria Pruitt