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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 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.

, 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 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 and , 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 . We'd love to see some of those come down. I think those will be some targeted properties for the city."

Steven Weissmann November 09, 2011 at 02:48 PM
I wish the old Browns Chicken had never gone out of business. It was one of the few fast food resturants in town I liked. I'll bet if they gave the old Browns the kind of tax breaks they will give a new business at that location, they never would have closed and they would have been paying taxes to the city for the last few years. instead the building was simply vacant.
Bill Angel November 09, 2011 at 03:53 PM
For the record. The City had absolutely nothing to due with either of the parcels that are being razed and re-built. A TIF district would have stalled both projects and would have hurt the school district even more had a TIF been implemented. Since when does Elmhurst meet any of the state standards to meet TIF requirements? Graboski, the market will take care of itself. Now you are a developer? Bring Trader Joes or Whole Foods. This way you can cannibalize our existing merchants who get zero tax incentives, zero tax rebates.
Adam November 09, 2011 at 03:53 PM
Wish we got a Lowes by the Ford dealership
Bill Angel November 09, 2011 at 03:59 PM
Lowes is leaving the market. Too much competition. Too high property o taxes impacts the lack of disposable income. That is, if your lucky to have a job. I see not a stitch of vision or inspiration in the City's comprehensive plan. There really is a fundamental lack of leadership.
Doremus Jessup November 09, 2011 at 04:06 PM
Whole Foods at the Ford Dealership site would be awesome. Wish I had thought of it. As for that proposed TIF district vicinity of York and Vallette I suspect residents besides myself are keeping an eye on why we see a real estate transaction there now and demolition across the street. Better believe we will be watching closely all relationships between elected officials and property owners and votes on any TIFs.
Bill Angel November 09, 2011 at 04:21 PM
DJ, Tell the City-NO to TIF. Otherwise you end up with 10 lbs of doo-doo in a 5 lbs bag. South Street ROCKS! Sorry to hear they changed the turkey trot route. Let the market take care of itself.
Lisa Tompkins November 09, 2011 at 05:03 PM
I was THRILLED when i drove by yesterday and saw that building coming down. It had been vacant, and deteroriating for years. It, along with the TCBY, have been eyesores in the middle of town and in my neighborhood for YEARS. Glad somebody(s) finally did something. I don't care what the reason, that area is better off today, and less an eyesore, than it was yesterday.
Marty McSorely November 09, 2011 at 05:27 PM
"There really is a fundamental lack of leadership" - "Bill Angel" "Hey ma, where's the meatloaf?!?" - "Chaz Reinhold", The Wedding Crashers Equally funny statements, coming from equally funny fictional characters, both of whom still live in their mom's basements.
Karen Stezowski November 10, 2011 at 12:58 PM
Why should taxpayers be on the hook to pay for the clean up of toxic waste on private property that is still owned by the business who polluted it in the first place? Taxpayers pay to clean it up and the owner gets more money for their remediated property? How is that in our interest? Just asking.
Jeff Smithson November 10, 2011 at 02:27 PM
Where does it say the taxpayers were paying to clean up the toxic waste? I only see where Grawbowski said "The remediation is a joint effort between the owners of Pauli's and Morningside".
Bill Angel November 10, 2011 at 02:52 PM
JS, Morningside will get reimbursed from the City through the back door as per the contract. You think Morningside is cleaning up a polluted property that has no relevant value as a stand alone piece of property? The "Hahn Street" development is just another example of a smoke filled back room crony sweetheat deal. The City (Mayor DiCiianni) is proposing to give every inch of property the taxpayers bought to Morningside for FREE. Valued at like $7 million bucks. OK, say I'm totally wrong? Ask Mr. Strossburg to the see the Pauli purchase contract. If it's a public-private partnership should not the public know the deal parameters? Why not send out a new and revised RFP since the market has changed significantly?
Karen Stezowski November 10, 2011 at 03:51 PM
"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."
Jeff Smithson November 10, 2011 at 04:00 PM
@BA - not sure what a "back door" to a contract is, but I certainly can understand why Pauli and Morningside would want that land cleaned up. Eventually something will go up there and both stand to benefit, as do the city and residents. The sooner it gets back on the tax rolls, the better. i do agree the project needs to be re-bid. @KS - So what is the alternative? Leave it to the owners, who have done NOTHING with the property for YEARS? We can sit back, cross our fingers, click our red slippers and hope the owners do something to take care of that eyesore, or the city can get involved, spend some money, and get something on that corner that isn't a white elephant. That stretch of York is embarrassing to our town. Something has to be done.
Jeff Smithson November 10, 2011 at 04:02 PM
PS...if they want to include a home or two next to the TCBY, that's fine with me too. A couple of them are starting to look run down and over grown.
Bill Angel November 10, 2011 at 04:24 PM
JS, I generally agree with your notion of "eye sores". However, we are talking about private property and ownership rights. There are laws on the books that can force owners to maintain their property. Why should you or I have to pay to clean it up? How da ya like the big box on the corner of York & Valette? ITS EMPTY and too big for the lot! I'm soo glad the City got involved on that one too!
Karen Stezowski November 10, 2011 at 04:25 PM
Or....how about we consider finishing out both blocks as residential, then having the green space as a buffer, and THEN having businesses.
Jeff Smithson November 10, 2011 at 04:40 PM
@BA - agreed, however, the rules on the books require a minimum to be done to maintain the property. There are no rules, nor should there be, to require landowners to have tenants. I do not believe the city had anything to do with the failed grocery at york and valette. Do you have any proof of that or is that an assumption on your part? @KS - I'm fine with that, but when you write "we consider...", who is the "we"? The city can't force the landowners to sell to residential builders nor can it force the building of residential. If there are problems underneath the soil of both parcels, somebody is going to have to do something to clean it up. Until then, the properties sit..vacant...like they have for years. At least now one of the ugly eyesores is down. It's a start. If "we" want something, like residential, done there, "we" may have to pay for it.
Ken November 11, 2011 at 06:30 PM
A grocery store would be nice at the Ford dealership but NOT Whole (paycheck)Foods. We already have a high priced store in Dominick's at York and Grand. Sad to hear the Hahn devolopment my go rental. We have enough Section 8 rentals in this town as it is now.
M May 17, 2012 at 04:40 PM
The park district should invest in the old brown chicken lot and keep it green with flowerbeds to tie in with the rest of the prairie path. If they closed Seminole Ave off and made it a no drive through street they could make a bridge over to the prairie path. It would look pretty and bring up that neighborhood to what it should be. If they closed off traffic by Seminole & York they would also stop all the insane rush through cut through traffic that occurs when York & St. Charles gets backed up. Seminole is a long and straight road and cars speed through the side streets like crazy at rush hour and it could be just a matter of time before a child gets hit. If nothing else they should make speed bumpers on Seminole to slow down traffic. Nice bumpers with flowers or plant boxes so it ties in with our beautiful Prairie path. Why doesn’t the City ever think & invest in something nice like that?
JJ January 02, 2013 at 01:52 PM
What are they building at the old TCBY location?

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