Des Plaines tollway oasis closing next year

It’s had a good ride, but the Illinois tollway’s Des Plaines Oasis will close ahead of schedule in 2014 to make way for the extension of the Elgin-O’Hare Expressway and widening the Jane Addams (I-90) Tollway.

The agency will pay oases leaseholder SFI $9.3 million in exchange for razing the glass pavilion that hovers over the Jane Addams. Demolition starts in April next year.

Gas stations and convenience stores that are separate buildings not connected with the glass pavilion will remain, officials said at a Thursday meeting.

The change will leave the Belvidere Oasis as the remaining one on the Jane Addams.

The Des Plaines facility was built in 1959. Featuring a Paul Harvey restaurant, it originally was a destination point for road-trippers in the suburbs.

“We know it’s an important part of our history but at the end of the day we want to do the job right on I-90,” Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said.

As reported by the Daily Herald in 2010, the Des Plaines oasis was in the way of a connector bridge linking I-90 with the western bypass segment of the Elgin-O’Hare Expressway. The western bypass connects with the Tri-State Tollway in Franklin Park, with the Elgin-O’Hare Expressway at the airport in the center and with I-90 in Des Plaines.

But because the oasis is also interfering with widening the Jane Addams, the agency is accelerating its demolition schedule.

Widening I-90 without razing the oasis — then returning in several years when the bypass is constructed and disrupting traffic on I-90 for its removal — “just doesn’t make sense,” Chief Engineer Paul Kovacs said.

The over-the-road glass structure will take about four months to remove and engineers anticipate occasional, 15-minute closures of all lanes at night that could start in June.

Like other oases on the system such as DeKalb on the Reagan Memorial Tollway, Des Plaines has suffered from a number of vacancies. Businesses operating there include Starbucks, Kronos Gyros, Taco Bell/KFC, Sbarro, Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, McDonald’s, Panda Express, Travel Mart and a Baskin-Robbins ice cream stand.

SFI has a 25-year lease agreement with the tollway that ends in 2027.

“I’m sure in the out years (of the lease) the tollway will explore the future of the oases,” Lafleur said.

The seven oases produce about $813,000 annually for the tollway each year.

In terms of total sales, fast-food, coffee and other vendors at the Des Plaines Oasis generated $7.4 million in 2012. Gas station, car wash and convenience store sales produced $40.1 million.

Tollway officials also said Thursday they intend to reconstruct parking lots at the other six oases, which will cost about $16.5 million, with SFI contributing half.

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