The former Sherman Hospital campus in Elgin is in the hands of a loan company this week after its owner, a twice-convicted felon, agreed to relinquish control of the 14-acre property during a a foreclosure proceeding, according to Kane County records.
Consisting of a 254,000 square foot hospital building, parking lot and open land at 934 Center St., the campus had been sold to the Chicago-based Freedom Development Group in 2019 after Advocate Health Care moved the hospital to a new location on Randall Road. .
Kane County court records show the property was seized in March and no property taxes were paid this year.
A Kane County judge this week signed an order allowing Westridge Lending LLC to repossess the property and close the foreclosure case. Westridge is listed as the owner on the deed dated August 8 at the county registrar’s office.
Westridge’s plans for the site are not known. A lawyer for the company declined to comment.
Among the defendants listed in the seizure were John Thomas, founder of Freedom Development Group, and 901 Center Street Holdings LLC. Court records show that at one point Thomas could not be located for summons service.
A lawyer listed in court records representing Thomas declined to comment.
Thomas spent two years in federal prison for a 2015 conviction for stealing $375,000 in taxpayer money earmarked for a marina development in Riverdale. He was convicted of fraud in New York under another name in the early 2000s, according to a Chicago Tribune article.
Thomas was a federal informant and wore a wire to record former business associate Antoin “Tony” Rezko’s comments regarding the investigation of former Governor Rod Blagojevich.
When Thomas’ company bought the property, he said it would be used for residential or senior housing development or it could be sold. However, the building remained vacant and the land undeveloped.
The State of Illinois and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced in 2020 that the old hospital would be converted into a temporary overflow facility to ease the strain of COVID-19 cases on area hospitals. Despite the work of converting the building to this use, it has never been occupied.
Thomas’ business received a $394,000 loan from the Federal Payment Protection Program in April 2020.
Freedom Development Group is listed as not in good standing with the Illinois Secretary of State’s Department of Business Services. His Chicago office phone number has been disconnected.
Owners in the northeast neighborhood have speculated about what is happening with the property and what should happen.
“I think we should work together as a neighborhood and a community to see what should go there,” said Elgin City Councilor Carol Rauschenberger, who lives in the neighborhood.
The existing building could be demolished and the property used for housing, Rauschenberger said. The city should figure out what the best use is and then market it to developers, she said.
“My best bet would be housing that matches the architecture of the neighborhood, whether it’s low- or middle-income housing or seniors housing,” she said.
Gloria Casas is a freelance journalist for The Courier-News.