Local Editorials

Our view: More trouble for former Motorola campus

Published:
The vacant Motorola campus in Harvard.[]

For about 15 years, it seems one setback has followed another for the corporate campus where Motorola once employed as many as 6,000 people.

The building cost about $100 million to build in the mid-1990s,including $30 million in public funds from the state of Illinois.

It sold in 2008 for $16.75 million, and most recently was auctioned for $9.3 million in 2016.

In light of recent developments with its absentee owner, the property seems closer to another trip to the auction block than any kind of productive use.

The Motorola campus is owned by Edward Harvard Holdings, a company controlled by businessman Xiao Hua Gong. The company had planned to use the property for its initial purpose – manufacturing cellular phones –that it said would require about a $32 million investment.

The company submitted an incomplete request for economic incentives, and then rarely was heard from again.

Meanwhile, officials from Harvard and McHenry County have done what they can to be accommodating, with the city agreeing to let a landmark house on the 325-acre property property fall apart rather than alienate the new owner.

But like past schemes to repurpose the campus at 2001 N. Division St. on Harvard’s north end, this grand plan may have had little substance.

Canadian authorities have arrested Gong on allegations of securities fraud, alleging he defrauded investors of millions by selling them stock in companies he controlled, then keeping most of the proceeds for personal use.

Meanwhile, Edward Harvard Holdings has failed to pay the second installment of the $325,000-plus annual property tax bill, so the taxes for the property have been sold at auction –again.

What will become of this monument to public money misspent and corporate decisions ill-conceived?

There have been many ideas floated: A water park. A mega-facility for a new corporate user. A university.

People in Harvard and in McHenry County generally have shown they are committed to bringing a new use to the site. Any owner with a serious plan can expect cooperation from locals when it comes to making it a reality.

The Motorola complex was once a source of civic pride that seemingly had endless possibilities, and it could be once again.

First, an owner with vision and commitment is needed.