Time for the wrecking ball
By Hank Beckman For The Sun December 20, 2012 10:40PM
Years of vacancy show on the building at 420 s. Washington on Wednesday, December 19, 2012. The city and North Central College have agreed on a plan to tear down the building and put a park in its place. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 22, 2013 6:29AM
The new year will bring new life to the eyesore property at 420-440 S. Washington St. in downtown Naperville.
For many people in the city, the demolition of the structure can’t come soon enough. On Tuesday night, the City Council authorized City Manager Doug Krieger to award a contract to tear down the building.
To show how much they wanted to get the job started, Mayor George Pradel and North Central College President Harold “Hal” Wilde took hammers to a model of the building, long considered the number one blight on the downtown area.
“We did all that without a demolition permit, too,” Pradel joked, drawing laughter from the audience.
Transportation, Engineering and Development Manager Bill Novack said that 12 bids had already been sent out for demolition, with the lowest responsible bidder coming in at $46,000.
The paperwork has been sent out and after the 10-day filing period required by the state, and removal of asbestos from the site, the contractor will begin demolishing the one-story structure.
“It will be gone sometime in January 2013,” Novak said.
North Central College is buying the property and will put a park on the site, which will also work as another entryway into the campus.
That work will begin soon.
Long time coming
The building to be torn down has a long history.
The 4,940-square-foot facility was built in 1930 and originally housed an auto dealership. Car sales continued there for a while. The last car dealership was Mighell Motor Co. Inc. in 1950.
The building was bought in the late 1950s by Leo Ahasic, the owner of a dry cleaning business in Aurora.
He and his brothers completely gutted the building, and worked with an architect to transform it into a strip mall-like structure. The building housed a laundromat up front and other businsses which eventually included a dance studio and dental practice, then later a barber/hair salon.
Other businesses that went through the building included restaurants, tax service facilities, Halloween costume “pop-up” stores, a golf store, a hot tub dealer and more.
As late as 2002, political candidates, including State Rep. Jim Meyer, used space in the building. However, since that time it has been vacant and eventually in foreclosure.
Into the future
The problem of the building at 420-440 S. Washington St. was almost solved a few years ago.
The building was in foreclosure in 2005 when it was purchased by Doug McCabe and John Gustaitis of Naperville.
They eventually had a solid deal to build a restaurant along the Riverwalk with two floors of office space above at the site.
After various revisions, that plan was finally approved by the city in October 2008.
The plan called for a deck overlooking the river, a circular bar with windows all around looking towards the downtown and windows looking out on the river.
However, just when the plan was OK’d by the city, the economy tanked, and the project died on the vine.
Now, a plan is firmly in place with North Central College to demolish the old building and use the space as a park to help link the downtown, the Riverwalk and the college together.
Wilde noted the importance of the project not just for the college, but for the whole community. He said the college was on a mission with one objective.
“To get rid of the number one eyesore in Naperville.”