Wisconsin developer buys the Graham Building in Aurora, other deals in the works

AURORA – By Christmas, downtown Aurora will be “abuzz with activity,” a Wisconsin developer promised Monday.

Milwaukee developer David Karademas confirmed that he has purchased two buildings on Stolp Island: the seven-story Graham Building, 33 S. Stolp Ave., and the 22-story Leland Tower.

Last week, Seize the Future CEO Dave Hulseberg confirmed that Karademas had purchased the historic Leland Tower building, 7 S. Stolp Ave., in the city’s downtown.

“I am not sure where the winds will direct me, but one way or another, the next episode for my company will be centered around Aurora,” Karademas said Monday.

While declining to talk project specifics, Karademas said he plans to return the Leland Tower and Graham Building “to the status they once held as architectural icons.”

“(The buildings) were purchased from an owner that did not recognize the vast potential,” Karademas said.

Karademas said he has “several” deals in the works, but is playing his cards “close to his chest” for now. The developer was in Aurora Thursday and Friday.

“Sixty days from now, I will have much more to share,” he said.

Karademas is also one of three in the running to redevelop the formers Elks Lodge property at 77 S. Stolp Ave. in downtown Aurora. Aurora Cultural Creatives, the non-profit group that runs downtown’s Culture Stock bookstore, and an undisclosed developer have also submitted proposals to redevelop the Mayan-style building, Seize the Future officials previously confirmed.

Seize the Future officials plan to recommend an Elks Lodge redevelopment plan to City Council at the end of August.

“I think we share a vision,” Hulseberg said about Karademas last week.

Karademas first came to Aurora in October, when he received a flyer about the Leland sale.

“Coming down Galena for the first time, it was love at first sight,” he said.

The Leland and Graham buildings are the first properties Karademas has purchased outside of Wisconsin. Karademas owns about 1,500 residential units in his home state, almost all of them renovations, he said.

“I merely look for buildings with good bones, and usually that means buildings that were built in the old days,” he said Monday.

According to Kane County property records, Karademas purchased the Graham property for about $2.2 million, and the Leland building, now both known as Fox Island Place, in May for about $6.6 million.

The Graham Building and Leland Tower were previously owned under limited partnerships by Evanston-based Kinzie Assets, according to Kane County property records. Karademas owns the properties under Fox Island Apartments, LLC.

Kinzie Assets purchased the Leland Tower building in December 2005 for $8.3 million and the Graham Building for $248,000 in May 2006, according to records.

The Graham Building and Leland Tower are Stolp Island’s two Prairie School style buildings. Construction on the Graham Building, designed by George Grant Elmslie, began in 1926. Construction also began on the Leland Tower, formerly a hotel, in 1926.

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