Article Published by Aurora Beacon-News | View Article
Author: Steve Lord
The Aurora City Council is considering a contract with a private commercial land broker to market four properties considered key in downtown Aurora.
Aldermen at the Dec. 8 regular City Council meeting will consider a contract with Naperville-based Caton Commercial Real Estate Group to find tenants for buildings at 35 W. New York St., 5 E. Downer Place, 33 S. Broadway and 51 E. Galena Blvd.
The contract would be between Caton and Invest Aurora, the city’s not-for-profit development arm, and is aimed at finding tenants that match Invest Aurora’s and the city’s master plan for downtown.
“The city has made a number of significant investments in the downtown over the past two, three years, and we just wanted to make sure whatever attraction efforts we have going forward, it’s a positive attraction, and not viewed as a detriment or causing any harm to our existing businesses downtown,” said Bryan Gay, Invest Aurora director.
Gay spoke to aldermen this week as they met online as a Committee of the Whole. Aldermen placed the item under unfinished business on the regular council agenda, meaning there could be more discussion before a vote.
The program is seen as a pilot using the four properties. Gay said the city has seven of its properties it considers “premier” locations targeted for more concentrated marketing, but is starting with the four with Caton.
Gay added that in seeking tenants for the buildings, city officials want users consistent with what the public wants. About three years ago, between 150 and 200 people responded to an Invest Aurora retail survey about the types of businesses people wanted to see downtown.
“We are taking into consideration what the public had really wanted to see …” Gay said.
David Dibo, Aurora’s economic development director, said the downtown master plan “defined what the city should look like.” It included small, local, niche businesses, he said. But he added city officials are “very cognizant” of gentrification issues, and not driving existing business and residents out.
“We’re not trying to come in and change the plan,” said Autumn Psaros, Caton Commercial senior vice president. “We want to achieve some of the goals that are already in place.”
Caton was chosen from five commercial brokers because of its understanding of downtown, Gay said.
“Any downtown, not just downtown Aurora,” he said.
Psaros said Caton Commercial is small and family-owned, and is “intimately involved in the markets they work with.” Caton Commercial helped the city bring Amy Morton and her restaurant, Stolp Island Social, to the restaurant suite in the Aurora Arts Center.
At the same Committee of the Whole meeting, Brian Dolan, of Dolan & Murphy, Inc., another family-owned commercial real estate broker that is Aurora-based, announced that his company just started “a strategic alliance” with Caton Commercial.
“The Dolans feel very highly of the Caton family and their tradition and their capability,” Dolan said.
Ald. Judd Lofchie, 10th Ward, himself a commercial real estate broker, had praise for both firms, calling them “great.” But he said he thought that the 8% fee Caton will get for the commercial leases downtown might be “a little high.”
Psaros pointed out Caton is on 100% commission, “so we only get paid if we perform.”
He also questioned why the city is not looking at selling the properties to get them back on the tax rolls, instead of leasing them.
“Any of these could turn into a sale,” Dibo said. “We’re open to any situation.” But he added that with the city retaining ownership, it has influence on what the building’s users would be.