The long-vacant, former Mia Cucina restaurant in the heart of downtown Palatine has been a depressing symbol of abandoned development in the wake of the recession.
Finally, more than six years after the popular eatery known for its architecture and butternut squash ravioli closed, a new business has stepped forward to fill that space.
The Tap House Grill will begin negotiating a lease with the village in hopes of opening its eighth suburban location next summer. It would take over the entire 10,000-square-foot building at 56 W. Wilson St. and also house its corporate office there.
"It's a long project coming," Palatine Councilman Aaron Del Mar said.
Mia Cucina closed in August 2006 after the village purchased the property for $2.2 million, clearing the way for a nearly $50 million condominium and retail development known as Palatine Place. But the developer never broke ground.
"That development fell by the wayside when the economy went down," Village Manager Reid Ottesen.
The council Monday authorized Ottesen to negotiate a lease. He's seeking a 10-year agreement that gives Tap House Grill the opportunity to purchase the property but also provides an out for the village in case another large-scale development materializes.
The restaurant operators also will seek financial assistance for infrastructure improvements through tax increment financing.
"They're going to be investing a million dollars into this property, and they would like the opportunity to at least considering purchasing it," Ottesen said. "There's a lot of work to be done because it's been stripped down and completely gutted."
The council still must grant the restaurant approval for a special use at a later date. No other changes are planned to the square block known as Block 27, including the adjacent public parking lot to the east.
Scott Ward, one of the Palatine-based Tap House Management Group principals, said the restaurant will emphasize existing architectural elements such as the wooden arch beam ceiling. The company also envisions the bar will feature up to 50 craft beers on tap and certain tables where guests can pour draft beer themselves.
"We feel that the location has potential, and could be our focal point as an organization," Ward wrote in a letter to the village.
The group currently runs Tap House Grill locations in Glen Ellyn, Highwood, Lemont, Oswego, Plainfield, St. Charles and Westmont.