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The Cost of Doing Business in Chicago

By Kevin Robinson in News on Jun 30, 2009 5:00PM

Mayor Daley's beautification program has done wonders for downtown and tourism, but for Candy Basselen, who runs Springfield Supply, a steel fabrication company, Daley's love for wrought-iron fencing and fancy landscaping has cost her her business. That's because the city wouldn't grant her a new business license after she moved her business to a warehouse at 3348 S. Pulaski, the same warehouse owned by Daley's nephew, Robert Vanecko. And until the warehouse had sufficient amounts of wrought-iron fencing and pleasant landscaping, the city told her, the building wouldn't be up to code. And therefore she couldn't get a business license.

To Basselen, who was only a tenant in the warehouse, the logic of this requirement made little sense. Especially since the city was leasing the space to park dump trucks. "If the city knew there were code violations, why was the city operating out of the building,'' Basselen told the Sun-Times. "The city was utilizing a building they themselves said wasn't up to code.'' And even though the City of Chicago has already paid nearly $500,000 in rent to DV Urban Reality, the real estate investment firm operated by Vanecko and Daley fundraiser Allison Davis, there's still no landscaping or wrought-iron fencing. "As it relates to the building violation, it is very simple,'' Jeff Josephs, one of Vanecko's partners in the warehouse deal, told the Sun-Times in an email. "The city zoning department has advised us that we need to add a wrought-iron fence to the front of the building and add some shrubs, plus blacktop a small portion of rock in the back. Less than $75,000 of work. No different than what they are requiring numerous owners who own city industrial property to complete.''

Although Josephs says they've hired a firm to correct the matter, Basselen is effectively out of business. That's because without a business license she hasn't been able to bid on city work. "I could not bid work in September because I didn't have a business license,'' Basselen she told the paper. Not to worry, though, because Vaneko's firm has refunded Basselen her $35,000 security deposit. "From September to April, I couldn't bid any work. Ninety percent of the work I do is for the city of Chicago," Basselen told the paper.

Photo by Paul R. Alexander