Cleanup in Elmhurst Involves Tearing Down and Digging Out
Defunct Brown's Chicken was razed Tuesday, and remediation at Pauli's is nearing completion.
A couple of problem areas in Elmhurst are being cleaned up, and while new development is not imminent, the cleanup will help pave the way for any future projects.
The old Brown's Chicken restaurant, at York and Seminole Avenue, was torn down Tuesday morning.
"That was really an eyesore for quite some time," City Manager James Grabowski said. "I'm glad we were able to work together with the owner to get that taken care of."
The building was part of an area currently being considered for a tax increment financing district. Brown's, along with two other shuttered businesses across the street, TCBY Yogurt and Dulles Cleaners, have been vacant for years. The properties on the east side of York are under different ownership than the Brown's property.
The city had hoped for a large-scale, planned development in the area, "but for whatever reason, it didn't work out for the owners," Grabowski said.
"There is a permit application in for a dental office (where TCBY is)," Grabowski said. "So that building will be town down when the new dental office is built."
The ground underneath the former Dulles Cleaners is suspected to be contaminated with dry cleaning chemicals, Grabowski said. Remediation may be necessary before development can proceed.
"That's one of the reasons we're looking at a TIF district there," he said. "We can use TIF funds to clean that up. If it does make it less desirable and make it cost prohibitive, that's the whole idea behind the TIF—to encourage development by helping to pay for those kinds of costs."
In another area of town, the ground is known to have been contaminated.
Pauli's Marathon, at 260 N. York Road in the heart of downtown, has been undergoing remediation procedures since last week. A large hole was dug in the parking lot of Panera Bread, which is directly north of Pauli's, and environmental contractors have removed many tons of soil contaminated by leaking underground gas tanks.
The site is the location of the proposed Hahn Street development, which has undergone some major revisions since developer Morningside first presented its plans to the city in 2007. The development originally was to include 82 condominiums, seven townhomes and 20,000 square feet of retail space. Morningside last month proposed a new plan that includes rental apartments and 12,600 square feet of retail for the site.
The remediation is a joint effort between the owners of Pauli's and Morningside, Grabowski said.
"It's a project the owner of the gas station and the developer have been working on for some time," he said. "It's something that has to happen regardless of when the property is developed. They had all of their permits in place and decided to move forward."
Leaking underground gas tanks is not an uncommon problem, he said. The same remediation process was completed a few years ago at York and Vallette, before the now-vacant Good Earth Market was built.
"I think the old tanks, which were steel, were just prone to leaking," he said.
The hole has been filled in with gravel and the lot soon will be paved. It can't happen soon enough for patrons of Panera Bread and CVS Pharmacy, who use the businesses' east parking lot.
As for the bigger economic picture, Grabowski said the ongoing discussion about forming TIF districts has brought interest from developers.
"There are some developers that are looking at parcels on North York," he said. "There are some big properties we'd like to see redeveloped, like Steven's Steak House, the old Ford dealer. We'd love to see some of those come down. I think those will be some targeted properties for the city."