Crystal Lake considering plan to buy downtown Metra station

By Cassie Buchman
Shaw Media
Updated 10/31/2021 9:03 AM

The Crystal Lake City Council is set to vote Tuesday on whether it wants to enter into an agreement with Metra to buy property around the downtown train station property that Union Pacific is looking to sell.

Although Metra has the first refusal to purchase the property, it does not want to, according to city staff. The commuter rail system has offered to buy the 1.8-acre parcel from Union Pacific on the city's behalf and transfer the property title to Crystal Lake through an intergovernmental agreement.


Cities like Crystal Lake impacted by Union Pacific's sale plans have until Nov. 12 to approve agreements with Metra, Anthony Ognibene, the agency's director of real estate and contract management, wrote in a letter to municipalities. The offer was made to other municipalities along Union Pacific's Northwest line as well.

Union Pacific notified Metra that it had entered into a master agreement with an unnamed developer to sell some or all of its 41 train station properties across the area for about $50.9 million, Metra said in the letter. The developer can still choose not to purchase individual stations, according to the letter.

McHenry County stations affected include Crystal Lake's downtown station as well as those in Cary, Woodstock, Harvard, McHenry and Fox River Grove.

Fox River Grove is not interested in purchasing the property at the dollar amount currently offered. Village Administrator Derek Soderholm said Fox River Grove doesn't have the money in its budget to purchase the $1.6 million piece of land, especially as the village is already maintaining it. Harvard Mayor Michael Kelly said his city isn't interested either.

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Crystal Lake has two commuter stations: one on Pingree Grove Road and another downtown, near City Hall and the police department. This agreement would center around the downtown station and the property at 70-88 E. Woodstock St.

Under the agreement being considered, the city would pay $1,072,500 to purchase the property, according to city staff, with an initial earnest amount of $26,000.

After entering into the agreement, Crystal Lake would have a 365 days to conduct a feasibility review, during which it can choose not to purchase the property and receive a refund of the earnest amount. During this period, the city will conduct environmental assessments, building and site assessments, a title search and identification of additional closing costs and fees, according to city documents.

"The city's legal counsel has reviewed the [intergovernmental agreement] and finds it generally acceptable, subject to some clarifications that are under review by Metra," city staff said.

The Crystal Lake City Council is set to meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday at city hall.

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