Records show Rantoul's White Hall now on its fifth owner
RANTOUL – The largest building on the former Chanute Air Force Base has a new owner.
According to records at the Champaign County Assessor's office, White Hall has been bought by a company listed as Future Planning Credit Services, 1 Eves Drive, Suite 111, Marlton, N.J.
At 500,000 square feet, White Hall is larger than 11 football fields. Constructed before World War II, it was the largest building owned by the Department of Defense until the construction of the Pentagon.
Rantoul Economic Development Director Robert Bruce said he met with two women representing Future Planning Credit Services, Regina Ross of Marlton, N.J., and Linda Anderson of Washington, D.C., three months ago.
"They discussed some rather grandiose possibilities for White Hall, including converting it to residential use, commercial use, retail use and office space," Bruce said.
But Bruce questioned whether there is sufficient demand for such uses in Rantoul.
"In addition, the condition of the building is such that it would take a significant amount of money to bring White Hall up to modern-day building codes," he said.
White Hall has been vacant since Chanute closed in 1993. The assessor's office records listed the market value on the land and building at $14,338.
Rantoul Village Comptroller Scot Brandon said his records show the building was bought from the previous owner, Susheel Tenguria of Champaign, some time in the last eight months.
Tenguria was a former graduate engineering student at the Product Development Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois. Records show he left the UI in October 2004.
Rantoul Chief Inspector Dan Culkin said he was first tipped off that White Hall had changed hands when he was approached by Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials looking for the owner.
Culkin contacted the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, which told him the new owner was a company called "Seven Stars" somewhere on the East Coast.
But the village regularly bills property owners to pay storm-water taxes. Brandon said village tax records show Future Planning Credit Services acquired White Hall over the last eight months, with the new billing address listed in Marlton, N.J. The Champaign County assessor's web site also lists the same address in Marlton, N.J., for White Hall's owner.
The suite and address listed for Future Planning Credit Services is the identical suite and address for Harry Schmoll's law offices. Schmoll is a former municipal court judge for Stafford Township, N.J., and a former professor of business law at Burlington County College in Pemberton, N.J.
Culkin said the interior of White Hall is full of asbestos and lead-based paint. A section of the roof leaks from the third to the first floor, and some lower interior levels are flooded. Rodents have been seen running through the building, which has developed stalagmites and stalactites in the interior. In addition, the facility needs major electrical work, the heating and cooling system needs to be replaced, and the building is not accessible to people with disabilities, Culkin said.
In September 2002, after an award-winning police dog named Dutch fell to his death while chasing a burglary suspect on the roof of White Hall, former Rantoul Police Chief Paul Dollins called White Hall a threat to public safety.
White Hall is on its fifth owner since Chanute's closure.
Champaign developer Jack Hayes was the first successful bidder on the building, but he returned it to the federal government in 1998.
Then University of Illinois researcher Latif Kahn bought White Hall in hopes of converting it into a private college. But Kahn returned the building to the Air Force in July 1999 when he couldn't come up with $42,000 to complete the purchase.
Rantoul developer Wha-Ying Jordan of Baltimore then acquired White Hall in November 1999 for $11,770. Jordan originally hoped to convert the building into condominiums and a shopping mall.
The next listed owner was Tenguria.
Prior to base closure, the Air Force had earmarked White Hall for a $4.3 million renovation, but those plans were canceled after Chanute was listed for closure.