Destined for improvement
By Erin Sauder For The Courier-News December 24, 2012 2:20PM
Tom Roeser stands in front of one of the distressed properties he purchased on Meier Street in East Dundee last year. Roeser also has taken over the helm of the 60-year-old Anvil Club (behind him to the left). | Sun-Times Media file
Updated: January 26, 2013 6:03AM
EAST DUNDEE — A local businessman is well on his way to helping make downtown East Dundee a notable Fox Valley destination.
“A lot of properties have gotten very tired, some even abandoned, and it detracts from the overall neighborhood,” said Tom Roeser, president of OTTO Engineering in Carpentersville. “But if somebody is willing to buy them and fix them, it enhances everybody’s value.”
Roeser has proven to be that somebody. And he vows that by next summer, East Dundee’s downtown “is going to be a beautiful, vibrant spot.”
Village officials couldn’t be happier.
“When he told us his plans I was thinking, ‘God sent you, didn’t he?’” East Dundee Village Administrator Robert Skurla said. “Normally a developer doesn’t say, ‘I’ll obtain the properties, fix them up and you tell me what you want done with them.’ That never happens. Needless to say, we became fast friends.”
Roeser has done similar work in Carpentersville, buying vacant homes, fixing them up and selling them to his employees and others at cost.
Already Roeser has fixed up the site of the old Dundee Lumber Company on Barrington Avenue that had been vacant since a fire about six years ago. The site is now ready for development. He is also in the process of renovating the vacant storefront at 320 River St. The new tenant will be Oxford Studios, a graphics arts firm for nonprofit enterprises.
The property at 319 Meier St., has been relocated 20 feet south, thanks to Roeser.
“I’m renovating it and the relocation is an opportunity to coordinate with Diamond Jim’s for outdoor seating,” Roeser said.
He also has donated property on the east side of Meier Street, between the bike path and the street, so the village can “clean up the west side of Depot Square,” and has contracts on two other properties in that area he plans to renovate as needed.
“Half of that area is empty buildings,” Roeser said. “The entire area can now be brought up to a cute, historic downtown area environment.”
East Dundee OK
East Dundee trustees recently gave preliminary approval to a public/private partnership focused on enhancing the Depot Plaza Square area, of which Roeser will play a key role. The plans include concepts for public improvements as well as private development projects.
Some proposed amenities for the area, which includes Barrington, Meier and River streets, are a children’s splash pad, removable ice rink, restaurant, retail and even an upscale apartment complex.
“Essentially we’d like to be able to create that square to have a number of activities that go on year-round,” Skurla said.
The downtown revitalization effort will be helped further by the demolition of the large yellow building across from the Anvil Club. Part of the Doederlein Lumber Co. complex, Fred Doederlein’s widow, DeLoris, is donating the building and property to East Dundee.
“When you get that yellow building down and create a sense of a square, I think you’ll have more people get off their bikes and loiter, in a good way,” Roeser said. “They’ll step across the street and utilize the restaurants.”
Why is this Carpentersville businessman investing so much in a neighboring town?
“When I look at the larger picture and think of this area, it’s not just Carpentersville, but it’s also East and West Dundee, too,” he said. “The towns all join together.”
In January, East Dundee Village Board members are expected to give authorization to proceed with design and arranging the initial $2 million in financing for the public portion of Phase 1, which includes improvements to the Depot Plaza Square and surrounding streets.
The privately funded portion of Phase 1, which includes transforming the Depot Plaza into a residential and mixed-use project, has a projected price tag of $4.5 million.
Roeser lauds East Dundee officials for their willingness to bring downtown revitalization to fruition.
“These projects and the fact that the village is so easy to work with will change the complexion of the area and return it to a notable destination in the Fox Valley,” he said.