Local News

Crystal Lake to buy downtown train station property through Metra deal

Opportunity to buy the station came as a result of Union Pacific’s announcement that it is selling stations along the Northwest Metra line

The Crystal Lake City Council approved Tuesday the purchase of the 1.8-acre downtown train station and its surrounding property through an intergovernmental agreement with Metra, the result of the Union Pacific’s intention to sell this and other commuter stations on the line.

Union Pacific notified Metra that it had entered into an agreement with an unnamed developer to sell some or all of the 41 train station properties for about $50.9 million, Metra said in a letter to affected municipalities.

Metra has the right of first refusal to buy the property but doesn’t want it, Crystal Lake city staff said, so instead, the Chicago region commuter rail system offered to buy the train station from Union Pacific on the city’s behalf and transfer the property title to the city of Crystal Lake.

The city of Crystal Lake decided to buy the property because “it’s an important part of the downtown” and city staff recommended it as a good opportunity, Assistant City Manager Eric Helm said.

“The location and the asking price for the property were all very attractive,” Helm said.

No plans are in the works for any changes to the property, Helm said. Crystal Lake, which has a lease with Union Pacific, currently handles minor maintenance items for the station. Helm doesn’t see this changing with the city’s purchase.

“The building and the property are currently in good condition,” he said.

Crystal Lake has two commuter stations, one on Pingree Road and another downtown, near City Hall and the police department.

The intergovernmental agreement the City Council agreed to during its meeting Tuesday centers on the downtown station and the property at 70-88 E. Woodstock St. Under the agreement, the city is set to pay $1,072,500 to buy the property, with an initial earnest amount of $26,000.

The train station purchase was approved unanimously with no discussion by the City Council as part of the meeting’s consent agenda.

Money to buy the property will come from the city of Crystal Lake’s capital funds, Helm said.

As part of the intergovernmental agreement, Crystal Lake now has a year to conduct a “feasibility review,” during which it can choose not to buy the property and receive a refund for the initial $26,000.

“During the review period, we would perform due diligence on the property,” Helm said.

As the city does with any new property, it will conduct environmental, building and site assessments, as well as a title search and identification of additional closing costs and fees.

“We don’t know of any issues with the property, but it’s important before you purchase a property to know everything about it,” Helm said.

Crystal Lake’s downtown station isn’t the only one impacted by Union Pacific’s decision to sell.

Others include the stations in Cary, Woodstock, Harvard, McHenry and Fox River Grove. Fox River Grove and Harvard village officials have already decided not to buy the property, as previously reported on by the Northwest Herald.