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City selling off four River North parking facilities for $12.4 million

Four River North parking facilities used by city employees assigned to Chicago’s central administrative hearings facility will be sold for $12 million to chip away at the city’s $30 billion pension crisis.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is desperately trying to convince Chicago taxpayers he has wrung every last dollar of savings out of the City Hall bureaucracy before lowering the boom with a $500 million property tax increase and a first-ever garbage collection fee.

Now, he’s following Inspector General Joe Ferguson’s lead in selling off four city parking lots: at 366 West Superior, 365 West Huron and at 356 and 366 West Erie.

One of the locations includes a one-story parking garage used by roughly 80 employees of the city’s Department of Administrative hearings. The other sites have surface lots.

The four lots range in size from 5,000 to 8,350 square feet. Appraisals pegged the value of those lots at anywhere from $1.35 million to $2.3 million for a total of $7 million.

But, the Emanuel administration is selling the lots for 60 percent above that appraised value, for prices ranging from $2.2 million to $3.8 million. The total price for all four lots is $12.4 million.

The buyers were identified as Morningside Huron LLC, 360-366 Superior LLC and 356-366 Erie LLC.

They were chosen through a two-step bidding process conducted this summer. The four lots were acquired by the city between 1997 and 2005.

Last summer, Ferguson shined the light on Chicago’s costly policy of allowing city workers to park free in a fast-growing neighborhood where developers can’t wait to get their hands on available land.

At the time, Ferguson estimated that the parking freebie for just 19 city employees at one of the four lots was costing Chicago taxpayers $46,500 a year and millions more when you consider how much the land was really worth.

The inspector general urged Emanuel to take a closer and periodic look at all of the land the city owns to make certain Chicago taxpayers were getting their money’s worth.

“We are leaving no stone unturned when eliminating waste and streamlining city government for the 2016 budget, and these sales are part of strategic efforts by the city to maximize our real estate assets on behalf of taxpayers,” Emanuel was quoted as saying in a news release.

“These sales remove high-valued properties from the city’s books and provide needed revenue for 2016 operations.”

Emanuel spent the first two years of his administration at odds with the inspector general.

But the two men have since buried the hatchet — so much so that Ferguson was reappointed to a new four-year term. The new and more cooperative relationship has seen Emanuel embrace Ferguson’s cost-cutting, revenue-raising recommendations instead of being defensive about those suggestions.

For example, the decision to end free garbage pick-up for more than 1,800 multiunit buildings that was a prelude to a first-ever garbage collection fee originated with Ferguson.

The four parking facilities the city is unloading have been used as parking for employees of the city’s central administrative hearings facility at 400 W. Superior. That’s where motorists go to challenge their parking, red-light and speed camera tickets along with an array of other fines.

It was not clear whether those employees will now be reimbursed for parking that is no longer provided by the city for free in the fast-growing and congested neighborhood.