2 Replies to “Mark Brown of Chicago Sun-Times back in Top Form”

  1. Glad to see Mark Brown kicking ass and taking no prisioners in the 11th Ward. Here is a follow-up Jul3, 2007 in the Chicago Sun-Times. Let’s watch if the 11th Ward can wiggle out of the FEDS agains. Bridgeport land for sale: Buyer beware
    Developer had riverfront property but says city helped pair force him out

    July 3, 2007
    BY MARK BROWN Sun-Times Columnist
    Thomas Snitzer remembers “fairly vividly” the first time he saw the property along the South Branch of the Chicago River that briefly made him one of the city’s hottest residential real estate developers before it all came to a crashing stop when he got crossways with City Hall.
    Fresh off the success of selling out their Dearborn Village project in the South Loop, Snitzer and his team began scouting opportunities for their next deal. But land in the South Loop had become too pricey, he said, so they turned their attention further south to Bridgeport.

    While driving north one day on Archer Avenue where it crosses the river near Ashland, Snitzer said, “I just happened to be looking out the window to the right, and I say, ‘Stop the car. Wait.’ “

    What Snitzer saw was a long, narrow strip of what appeared to be vacant industrial property along Bubbly Creek, surrounded by houses.

    For most of us, that’s all we’d see, but Snitzer saw a chance to make a lot of money — by clearing the industrial sites and building new homes.

    “Right away it looked like a terrific opportunity,” said Snitzer, who a few years later was building million-dollar houses on one stretch of this riverfront property named Bridgeport Village.

    Snitzer envisioned extending the development from Archer to 35th Street, and he and his partners gobbled up as much of that land as they could.

    Filed racketeering lawsuit
    But now Snitzer is entangled in a thicket of litigation as treacherous as the brambles along the riverbank, only the most notorious of which is his own racketeering lawsuit against the city and two powerful Bridgeport businessmen — Timothy Degnan and Thomas DiPiazza — whom he accuses of muscling in on the project and then muscling him out.
    As a result, all the rest of that real estate is back on the market.

    There are nearly 25 acres total, “the single greatest opportunity for a residential developer to acquire major parcels with Chicago River frontage,” according to the online offering brochure from Colliers Bennett & Kahnweiler. This includes three properties owned outright and a fourth under option.

    While he no longer has any prospects of developing the property himself, its impending sale is of more than a passing interest to Snitzer — who still has ownership stake but no longer any control.

    The underlying theory of Snitzer’s federal lawsuit is that he was forced out at Bridgeport Village because he refused to meet the demands of Degnan and DiPiazza for insider favors such as construction contracts for favored businesses, as well as other instructions such as not to sell too many homes to “ethnics,” which Snitzer says really meant Asians.

    Although Snitzer and his partners signed a $1.3 million consulting deal with DiPiazza, a Bridgeport developer who used to be a city Water Department employee, the relationship quickly soured, Snitzer said.

    Faced with the prospect of losing out on future potential financial benefits if Snitzer and his partners were allowed to develop the remaining properties as well, the mayor’s office and 11th Ward political figures conspired to get him out of the way with a full-court press from the city’s Building Department, Snitzer alleges.

    It’s a self-serving view of the facts, to be sure, considering some very real construction problems at Bridgeport Village and evidence that suggests Snitzer’s team benefitted from its insider status while it lasted. But there are enough pieces that fit to give the accusation legs.

    Will next owner face hurdles?
    Snitzer flatly refuses to discuss whether his allegations have become the subject of an FBI investigation, but it’s hard to imagine how they couldn’t be.
    What Snitzer now wants to know is if the next developer who buys the property will be forced to play ball with the same 11th Ward forces of which he ran afoul.

    Without city support, Snitzer questions whether the property will fetch the premium price that it now should considering that Bridgeport Village, whatever its shortcomings, proved a strong market for riverfront housing, even on Bubbly Creek. Toward that end, he’s keeping a close eye on the sale, watching for further signs of 11th Ward interference.

    Vern Schultz, executive vice president at Colliers, said his firm is expecting a couple of offers from qualified purchasers in the next few weeks. He said he doesn’t expect the buyer to face any special complications in developing the property because of its Bridgeport location.

    Schultz predicts Bridgeport will become a “South Side Lake View” in coming years with Bridgeport Village having shown the way.

    “When all this gets done, people are going to say [Snitzer and his partners] were geniuses” for assembling the property, Schultz said. “It will be the place to be.”

    Some will say geniuses. Some will say suckers.

  2. A Fired City Employee was the bag man for DiPiazza and covered him as a ghost pay-roller when both were in the Calabrese street crew. (Response) good he is fired, right?

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