Des Plaines again delays condemning Leona's building, but council's patience waning

Des Plaines officials have once again delayed forcibly purchasing a vacant restaurant building in the downtown district, expressing hope that the owner will find a tenant by springtime.

The city council on Monday unanimously voted to defer using its power of eminent domain to condemn the former Leona's restaurant space at 1504 Miner St. until April 1.

Officials hope the maneuver will give owner Jim Karkazis time to strike a deal with one of the businesses reportedly interested in leasing the space.

The 4,400-square-foot building has been unused since 2017.

City officials tried to negotiate a purchase deal with Karkazis but weren't successful. They began pursuing condemnation through eminent domain earlier this year, and Karkazis has fought the effort.

In July, he announced an entrepreneur wanted to lease the building and launch a business there. At that time, the council agreed to delay a pending final vote on condemnation until early September.

When September rolled around, Karkazis said he had agreed to terms with a would-be tenant but hasn't yet signed a deal because the entrepreneur was trying to line up financing. The council agreed to give Karkazis until Monday to finalize a pact.

But no lease has been signed.

Mayor Andrew Goczkowski on Monday said he and city staffers have been working closely with Karkazis to get a tenant into the space.

"The owner is working diligently to try (to) fill this property," Goczkowski said.

Goczkowski proposed indefinitely delaying a condemnation vote, saying he's personally spoken with several entrepreneurs who are "very interested" in taking over the building. A prospective coworking operation, a golf shop and two cannabis dispensaries are pursuing the space, he said.

But that didn't sit well with 5th Ward Alderman Carla Brookman, who said the council has been "more than patient" with Karkazis but has only received "empty promises" from him despite repeatedly delaying condemnation.

"My patience, I have to tell you, is running out," Brookman said.

Eighth Ward Alderman Mike Charewicz then suggested postponing a condemnation vote until April 1. That worked for the mayor and the council.

Before aldermen ruled on the postponement, however, Charewicz cautioned that his patience is wearing thin, too.

"I think we've given (Karkazis) more than enough second chances," Charewicz said.

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