EAST VILLAGE — A former police station in East Village that's been vacant for nearly five months might not be empty for much longer, as city and county officials work out financing for a plan to bring an elite Cook County Sheriff's unit to the building.
Ed Burke Jr., an assistant deputy sheriff, told residents Monday that there's "no set date" for the reopening of the building at 937 N. Wood St. but that the plan is about "99 percent" there.
Bob O'Neil, assistant director of the Central Warrants Unit, which is based in Maywood and Burke, chief of the child support enforcement unit — based on the city's West Side — shared the news with members of the East Village Association Monday at Happy Village, 1059 N. Wolcott St.
When the station reopens, it will serve as headquarters for the Central Warrants Unit, which encompasses divisions led by Burke and O'Neil that are tasked with tracking down some 42,000 open warrants in Cook County.
The county operates its fugitive and electronic monitoring division out of Maywood, and child enforcement, domestic battery and civil warrants out of a juvenile facility at Western and Ogden avenues. The consolidation will represent the first time that all of the 85 Sheriff's Police officers and 10 clerks in the Central Warrants Unit will be working under the same roof.
"We have never had all of our divisions in the same place since we were created," said Burke.
O'Neil added: "Words can't describe how excited we are."
Burke, who referred to the Central Warrants Unit as "one of the most elite" in the Sheriff's Office, assured residents that the "mere presence [of the officers] is a deterrent for crime."
While the plan to transfer the Central Warrants Unit was approved by the Cook County Board in February, and terms of a 10-year lease were passed in the City Council in March, Burke said that the delay is being caused by financing related to renovations.
Matt Bailey, a spokesman for Ald. Joe Moreno (1st), said Tuesday that the lease is "98 percent" close to being finalized and signed.
Previously, the East Village Association reported that asbestos removal and remediation was pending as negotiations continued over whether the city or county would pay for it.
Top among resident concerns was whether the facility would serve as a lockup and hold prisoners overnight.
Burke said that the space would be used only for officers to question individuals before transferring them to other facilities.
No visitors would be allowed on the premises and Burke said that he did not expect parking needs to extend beyond the lot adjacent to the building.
Built in 1960, the 19,000-square-foot neighborhood police station was closed as part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's 2012 budget. In December, officers transferred to the consolidated Near West District.
Officials had said the basement of the Wood Street station suffered from flooding and was not handicapped-accessible.
O'Neil said they were "even looking to take an existing cell out of the building" as part of a renovation that might include facade improvements and possible landscaping.
Other details include:
The building will be open from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week.
About 85 officers and 10 clerks split among two 10-hour shifts will use the building.
Most of the cars will be unmarked and, due to the fact that the officers take their cars home with them, 40 or 45 cars will be pulling in and out of the lot during a shift.
After the meeting, residents seemed satisfied with the plan and eager for the lease to begin.
Robert Schickel, who lives two blocks from the station, said he was "happy the building is being used" and he'd "be concerned if [the sheriff's police] weren't there."
East Village Association president Neal McKnight said that the plan,"generally speaking, is a thumbs up" and has been "received well by the community."
"People are still holding out hope that the Police Department can have a presence in [the building] as well, but they are also just happy that the building is being used," McKnight said.