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Aurora East Side community center plan ‘still moving forward’

Updated: March 8, 2014 6:40AM

AURORA — A plan to create an East Side community center in the city’s downtown is still moving forward, city officials confirmed Thursday.

Aurora Assistant Chief of Staff Rick Guzman said non-profit partners involved in the project and the city are now working toward financing agreements.

“It is a complicated layering of things,” Guzman said. “Most of the pieces are there but we need to iron out how they are going to fit together.”

Under the deal, the city plans to purchase a one-story building at 68-70 S. LaSalle St. from Whisler/Yellin Partners. In December, Guzman said the likely purchase price would be about $175,000.

Once purchased, the city has long-term plans to combine the 11,000-square-foot 68-70 S. LaSalle property with the 17,000-square-foot building next door at 62-64 S. LaSalle St. That three-story building was donated to the Boy Scouts late last year.

The city’s Finance Committee members have indicated that they “are more than willing” to consider the proposal, but that aldermen want the city to have binding funding commitments in place from the non-profit partners before they sign off on the city’s purchase of the building, Guzman said.

“The city won’t buy the building until those agreements are in place. Then we’ll bring it forward (to City Council),” he said this week.

Guzman said that he is hopeful that an agreement won’t take much longer, but that multiple non-profit boards have to sign off on the plan.

Larry Yellin, one of the 68-70 S. Lasalle St. property owners, said Thursday that he continues to carry expenses on the property, including insurance and real estate taxes.

The deal that he aims to strike with the city is less than Yellin has been offered for the property in the past, he said.

“We are cooperating with the city in every way we possibly can,” Yellin said. “We think that a youth center is very positive for Aurora and we hope that other people will recognize that.”

Under the plan, the city aims to partner with several Aurora-based non-profits to form a non-profit collaboration and community center. In December, Guzman said the non-profits Communities in Schools, Triple Threat Mentoring, the Boy Scouts and Community 4:12 would be likely, but not definite, partners in the building.

The city’s 2014 budget calls for $350,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funding to be used toward the rehab of the building. A total rehab of the 62-70 S. LaSalle St. properties is expected to cost $2 to $3 million and non-profit partners are expected to seek grants and private foundation dollars under the plan.

The purchase of the building and commitment of CDBG dollars would be subject to City Council approval.

Under the deal with Yellin, the city also plans to purchase a small property at 64 N. LaSalle St., according to Guzman.

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