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After West Ridge Library Sale Slammed For Lack Of Transparency, New Bidder More Than Doubles Original Sale Price

After neighbors raised concerns and Block Club Chicago asked the city questions about the sale of the old Northtown branch, the deal was scrubbed and a public bidding process was put in place.

The former Northtown branch of the Chicago Public Library could be sold to Yachad Chicago.
Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago
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WEST RIDGE — When Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th) announced in February that the shuttered library in West Ridge would be sold for $400,000, neighbors raised concerns about the transparency of the sale process and a future building tenant’s ties to Silverstein.

As a result, and after Block Club Chicago asked the city questions about the sale, the deal was scrubbed and a public bidding process was put in place.

Now, the city stands to more than double what it will make from the sale after a different organization outbid two others.

Silverstein announced the nonprofit Forging Opportunities for Refugees in America was the high bidder for the former Northtown library branch building at 6435 N. California Ave. It offered $962,786 — a net gain of $562,786 for Chicago thanks to the new process.

Forging Opportunities beat out Yachad Chicago, which was previously announced as the organization in line to buy the library for $400,000 — despite it being appraised at $750,000 in 2020, according to city documents.

The sale is likely to be considered at the Chicago Plan Commission’s June 16 meeting, a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Planning and Development said.

Credit: Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago
The former Northtown branch of the Chicago Public Library could be sold to Yachad Chicago.

West Ridge neighbors have been seeking uses for the library building since it was vacated in 2018. That’s when the neighborhood’s new library and affordable housing complex opened on Western Avenue.

RELATED: Proposed Sale of West Ridge Library Stalls After Neighbors Protest Lack Of Transparency, Alderman’s Ties To Plan

After years of trying to learn more about the building’s status, members of the West Ridge Community Organization learned in February that the library was in line to be sold to Yachad Chicago, an Orthodox Jewish organization that helps those with disabilities.

Silverstein publicly announced the proposed sale Feb. 28. Neighbors looked into the sale, finding a city memorandum from October showing the sale of the library building to the Jewish nonprofit was already in the works.

The sale was announced and was set for initial city approval two weeks before a March 31 deadline for bids on the library building, records show.

Under that proposed sale, Yachad Chicago was to sub-lease a portion of the building to Libenu, a Jewish social services group that was was co-founded by Silverstein.

In response to learning of the sale, the West Ridge Community Organization wrote Silverstein to “express our strong disappointment with the lack of transparency involved in the sale of this public building.”

After Block Club asked city officials about the sale process, the proposed sale was delayed from a March committee meeting so more bids could be offered. Three potential buyers — Forging Opportunities, Yachad Chicago and Chinese Mutual Aid Association — then went through multiple rounds of bids.

Previously, Silverstein said she cleared the proposed sale with the city’s board of ethics and that the city’s Department of Planning and Development leads the way on city property sales.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th) looks on at a City Council meeting on May 25, 2022.

Forging Opportunities is located next door to the library building at 6431 N. California Ave. The group helps refugees get established in their new neighborhoods.

Officials with Forging Opportunities did not respond to a request for comment.

If the sale is approved, Silverstein said Forging Opportunities will be responsible for renovating the 11,000-square-foot building that served as a library since 1962 before it was vacated in 2018.

“All three organizations provide vital services to our community and would be fine additions to the neighborhood,” Silverstein said in her newsletter announcing the new sale.

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