Bryn Mawr is the historic district in Chicago, Illinois that’s on the lakefront of the Edgewater neighborhood far north of the city. Northeastern Illinois University has acquired land along Bryn Mawr Avenue that includes the building that houses the Bryn Mawr Breakfast Club. The land was acquired by eminent domain.
Apparently the owner was aware that NEIU had an interest in the land but the idea seemed far off and he signed a lease anyways. The restaurant quickly became very popular with locals. Then, in August 2014, NEIU began the eminent domain proceedings with the intention to build student housing.
Many problems occur in cases of eminent domain because relocation benefits are not always offered. That appears to be the case for the Bryn Mawr Breakfast Club. Kitchen equipment, furniture, and decorations can be moved, but any upgrades that the owners made to the property may be a lost investment.
Ideally, the owners would be able to find a new location that was previously housed by a restaurant with an existing commercial kitchen. However, if such a replacement property is unavailable, a new kitchen installation could cost $30-$40k.
If federal funds were used in this project, or if state law required relocation benefits to be offered when using eminent domain, NEIU would be required to follow the federal Uniform Relocation and Acquisition Policy Act (URA). The URA provides regulations that offer a fair and equitable treatment of persons displaced. It includes regulations that allow certain relocation costs to be reimbursed to the tenant. Unfortunately, under many projects, as with NEIU’s project, relocation costs go unpaid and the business tenants end up baring a disproportionate amount of the burden of a project that benefits the public.
In the absence of providing required relocation benefits, such as with the URA, and to reduce the burden placed on business tenants, a relocation package should be negotiated where the business occupant will be entitled to relocation benefits for moving personal property and reconfiguring their operations because of the property taking. It’s valuable to have qualified people analyze the issues and facts, and prepare the necessary reports and documentation.
Professionals should be brought in who understand the facts so that they can perform a proper analysis and sort items into the proper categories in hopes that the business can prevail in an acquisition or relocation dispute.