NIU considering land purchase

By Jim Wozniak

NIU has approached Equitable Insurance of America and informed the company of its interest in the land formerly occupied by the Wurlitzer piano company at 403 Gurler Road, said Mike Tozzi, Equitable sales vice president.

Tom Montiegel, NIU vice president for development and university relations, said the university’s main reason for looking into the land is space. The sale price is $1.5 million, said Dave Prioletti, sales associate for Caldwell Banker, which is selling the property for Equitable.

The property is about four miles southeast of NIU and holds about 70 acres, of which about 130,000 square feet is five buildings. Prioletti said another building of about 55,000 square feet and 10 acres, which used to be the DeKalb County Special Education School, also is available.

Prioletti said NIU mainly is interested in the land to bring the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology there. But Montiegel said he does not think the old Wurlitzer building would be an appropriate place for the Engineering school because it was constructed as a corporate headquarters with carpeting.

Montiegel said if NIU buys the land, it might use it for additional office space or bring some classes there.

“It’s a piece of property that’s available, it’s close to campus and it’s an attractive building,” Montiegel said. “It’s really an excellent facility.”

Montiegel said NIU does not have a way to pay for the property yet. He said the university probably will have to rely on private donations. But the university cannot count on the NIU Foundation to buy it because the Foundation does not have the money.

Interest in the land also stems from the Sasaski and Associates’ study which identified a need for NIU to find as much space as it can find, Montiegel said. The planning firm came to NIU in the summer of 1986 and studied the space situation and campus aesthetics.

“All you have to do is walk around campus (to recognize the need),” he said.

NIU President John LaTourette declined comment Friday on the possible land purchase because it might affect the situation.

Eddie Williams, vice president for finance and planning, said he was unaware of the possible purchase and referred all questions to LaTourette.

“The only official thing we have is a request for a new building,” Williams said. “I’m not involved, so I don’t have any details.”

Prioletti said four other parties are interested in the land. He said one is a retirement group stationed in Chicago, but he would not mention the other three. Caldwell began as Equitable’s real estate agent in June, around which time Wurlitzer cleared out its remaining holdings.

NIU began indicating its interest about a year-and-a-half ago, Prioletti said.

Tozzi said the land has been on sale for 60 to 90 days. Equitable has had preliminary discussions with NIU, and the next step is for some group to make an offer. He said Montiegel has called him about two times.

The property’s layout has one of the buildings, which appears somewhat worn, near the entrance at the south end. The remaining five buildings are about one-fourth of a mile further north and bunched closer together. The land has two parking lots, and an inordinate amount of open space.

“We’re always on the lookout (for more space),” Montiegel said. “Equitable is on the lookout. It’s never been completely empty. Wurlitzer began pulling out a couple of years ago. Everything is now moved out to Texas.”