Romanian heritage center proposed for Des Plaines

A faith-based, nonprofit group aims to open a Romanian heritage center in vacant commercial space in Des Plaines.

The operation is proposed for a one-story commercial building on the 0-100 block of Broadway Street. The building, which isn't far from the Cumberland Circle roundabout, contains four vacant storefronts.

The center would be open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. as a research and tutoring center, city documents indicate. Proposed programs include language classes, heritage classes, Bible study and a reading club.

Large events would be held occasionally on weekends.

The plan has been put forth by an Arlington Heights-based group called Romanian Heritage Center NFP, documents indicate. The group's leaders include people "who represent all the Christian denominations of our community," according to its website.

The organization has rented space in Niles.

The group intends to remodel the building's interior and create a library and multipurpose room, a museum, a conference room and more, its website indicates.

Steven Bonica, president and executive director of the Romanian Heritage Center group, has a contract to purchase the site, city documents indicate.

The center would be open to anyone, not just people of Romanian heritage, Bonica told the city council during a lengthy public discussion Tuesday night.

"This is for our neighbors," Bonica said. "This is for our friends."

It's also for people who want to sample Romanian food at events, he said.

The facility needs a conditional use permit from the city to operate.

As part of the permit process, aldermen on Tuesday said they want assurances from Bonica that the center will have enough parking for visitors. The building itself doesn't have the minimum required number of parking spots, Economic Development Manager John Carlisle said.

A local resident voiced concern about cars potentially parking on Broadway.

The group plans to stripe the building's lot to add spots, Carlisle said. Additionally, the group is striking deals with nearby property owners to use their lots for overflow parking, Bonica said.

The site is in the city's 7th Ward. Although she expressed concerns about parking availability, 7th Ward Alderman Patsy Smith said she's excited about the proposal.

The council gave the plans its initial approval Tuesday without objection. A second review and a final vote will be scheduled.

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  A nonprofit group wants to open a Romanian heritage center in these vacant commercial spaces on Broadway Street in Des Plaines. Mark Welsh/
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