Going, going, gone: Bensenville neighborhood makes way for O'Hare area industrial development

  • A gated fence guards the former Mohawk Terrace neighborhood, which is being demolished as residents sold their homes to commercial real estate developers who plan to build industrial buildings.

    A gated fence guards the former Mohawk Terrace neighborhood, which is being demolished as residents sold their homes to commercial real estate developers who plan to build industrial buildings. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 8/2/2021 9:19 AM

Soon there will be nothing left to remind people of the Mohawk Terrace neighborhood in Bensenville.

The 106 houses where people had raised families since 1956 will be gone.

 

Rising in their place will be 1.2 million square feet of top-of-the-line industrial space in four buildings.

What happened?

"The stars are aligning in a very unique situation," Bensenville Village Manager Evan Summers said.

By knocking down the houses, the new owners will have a 68-acre site in a very hot O'Hare International Airport industrial real-estate submarket.

The former Mohawk Terrace neighborhood in Bensenville is being demolished to make way for warehouses and other industrial buildings near O'Hare International Airport.
The former Mohawk Terrace neighborhood in Bensenville is being demolished to make way for warehouses and other industrial buildings near O'Hare International Airport. - Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

The firms paid a pretty penny for some of the houses. A 30-year-old two-story brick house on Indian Hill Drive sold for $1.7 million.

The Addison Township assessor listed it as having a fair market value of $293,459 in 2020.

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"That's generational wealth," Village President Frank DeSimone said.

A one-story brick house on Spruce Avenue, built in 1968, sold for $475,000 -- more than double its estimated fair market value.

"It's a testament of what industrial real estate is going for," Summers said. "These opportunities don't come up often."

History repeating?

It's the second time a large chunk of houses will disappear from Bensenville.

When the project was proposed, "I thought about what happened to Bensenville with the O'Hare project," DeSimone said. He means the loss of about 600 homes and businesses near York and Irving Park roads in 2009 when Chicago bought the properties to expand the airport.

Chicago tried taking the properties through condemnation. The village fought it tooth-and-nail in court but ultimately settled, as some of the residents began selling to Chicago. The properties were disconnected from Bensenville, so the village lost property tax revenue. The village's population dropped from 20,703 in 2000 to 18,352 in 2010 and 17,740 in 2020.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
A demolition crew is taking down houses in the former Mohawk Terrace neighborhood in Bensenville. Owners of the 106 homes sold to developers who plan to build industrial buildings.
A demolition crew is taking down houses in the former Mohawk Terrace neighborhood in Bensenville. Owners of the 106 homes sold to developers who plan to build industrial buildings. - Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

For Mohawk Terrace, DeSimone told the developers the village wouldn't consider the proposal unless there was 100% participation by the subdivision's residents.

"The choice was up to them (residents)," DeSimone said.

"Bensenville did not force anybody to do this," Summers said.

Summers said representatives from ML Realty Partners and Prologis asked village officials last year if they would be interested in having industrial buildings replace the houses.

"I thought it was a fool's errand," Summers said. "We never aimed to eliminate the houses."

But a broker went door to door making offers -- and to Summers' surprise, everyone bit.

The market

"It's so hot it's just difficult to get inventory," Summers said of the O'Hare submarket for industrial real estate.

The new development is zoned for light industrial uses. That means that, in addition to warehouses, some manufacturing businesses could move in.

Having nearby tollway access, including the new I-390 connection to the west side of the airport, "opens up access to the rest of the country," Summers said. Product can be moved in and out of O'Hare more quickly.

Soon nothing will be left of the 106-home Mohawk Terrace neighborhood in Bensenville. The owners sold to developers looking to build industrial buildings.
Soon nothing will be left of the 106-home Mohawk Terrace neighborhood in Bensenville. The owners sold to developers looking to build industrial buildings. - Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Summers said industrial cargo flights at O'Hare continued to climb, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The subdivision's location south of Devon Avenue puts it in DuPage County, which is another advantage, Summers said, because of lower property taxes than in Cook County.

Mohawk Terrace had several characteristics that made it ripe. First was its isolated location, on the far northern edge of town, surrounded by other industrial properties.

The subdivision was on well water and septic sewer systems, and owners eventually would have faced costs of switching to village water and sanitary sewer systems, Summers said.

Residents began moving out early this year, and all were gone by June 30. The site is fenced off as demolition continues.

The village board has already approved a preliminary planned unit development for the site. The development is expected to generate about $162,000 more a year in property taxes for the village than the houses did.

Summers said the new businesses could bring in 300 to 1,200 jobs.

Last look

DeSimone took his family over to Mohawk Terrace when demolition started, though they hadn't lived there. "It was weird. It was eerie," he said.

Summers and DeSimone don't expect any other subdivisions in town to do what Mohawk Terrace residents did. "My residents come first ... we never want to lose residents," DeSimone said, adding he hoped some would find new homes in the village.

"Bensenville neighborhoods are not for sale," Summers said.

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