Cemetery | O’Hare Expansion
Consecrated in 1849, the 5.34-acre St. Johannes Cemetery stood in the way of progress. The
property was condemned by the City of Chicago for the O’Hare Modernization Program’s
construction of new runway facilities.
The attorneys representing the cemetery’s owners, the St. John’s United Church of Christ,
retained MaRous & Company to prepare a valuation that addressed the highest and best use of
the property subject to its location within the airport perimeter and immediately adjacent to the
FedEx air cargo facility; its problematic access characteristics; its history as a 160-
year-old church-owned cemetery; and the impact of the separately owned plots located over
approximately 60 percent of the site.
The retrospective valuation date in late 2007 coincided with the peak in industrial land values in
the O’Hare industrial submarket. The subject property had a “front-row seat” in the air freight
and distribution hub that surrounds the O’Hare International Airport. With particular
consideration given to the east- and west-adjacent improved air freight uses, it was readily
apparent that the highest and best use of the site as vacant would be for freight distribution,
industrial, or long-term airport parking use. With the cost of the disinterments and relocation of
the individual graves being borne by the City of Chicago, the site effectively was returned to a
vacant site available for redevelopment. The condemning body had taken the position that the
highest and best use was as an outlying residential parcel.
MaRous and Company prepared a valuation that addressed the site’s industrial highest and best
use while conforming to the court-dictated valuation as a special-use property with replacement
value being the methodology presented within the sales comparison approach.
The case settled after depositions and before trial for approximately double the City of Chicago’s