Developers interested in Des Plaines' first McDonald's
A Des Plaines building that served as the first hospital in the Northwest suburbs could soon face the wrecking ball, making way for potential redevelopment that some have suggested could even include the site of the neighboring iconic McDonald's Museum.
The Polo Inn motel, 374 Lee St., has been shuttered since April 2013, when floods left the 80-plus-year-old building under water and virtually beyond repair.
The city has installed fencing around the boarded-up building and urged the property owner to demolish it. But city officials also want something to go in its place, in an area long-targeted for redevelopment as part of the Five Corners intersection of Lee Street, River Road and Rand Road.
The property, owned by Calumet City-based M & M Property Group, has been listed for sale at $1.125 million since early last month.
Val Petkov, the Realtor marketing the property, said he's talked to banks interested in building branch locations there, as well as "several" developers who are interested in building a mixed-use development with commercial storefronts on the first level and townhouses and condominiums above.
Some of those developers have also suggested they'd like to build on more than just the site of the motel, Petkov said. The McDonald's Museum is next door at 400 Lee St.
Rumors surfaced late last year that McDonald's officials were considering moving the museum -- or portions of it -- to the company's corporate headquarters in Oak Brook. The museum is on the site of Ray Kroc's first McDonald's walk-up restaurant, which he opened on April 15, 1955. The original building was torn down in 1984 and replaced with the current structure, a replica built according to the original blueprints.
Petkov said some developers encouraged him to reach out to McDonald's brass in hopes of convincing them to move the museum.
"I've been in touch with (McDonald's officials) for the last several weeks," Petkov said. "I've been getting mixed feedback. Some said, 'We are considering it.' Others have said, 'Absolutely not.'"
McDonald's spokeswoman Lisa McComb said late Friday in a statement that "we are definitely not moving the Des Plaines museum."
Petkov said if he can get an offer in writing from a potential buyer who also wants to build on the McDonald's site, it could put pressure on McDonald's officials to move the museum.
"It's more enticing for someone to get the full land there and build something more significant," Petkov said.
A Mexican restaurant at 356 Lee St. that currently pays rent to M & M Property Group is also included in the listing of the motel property.
One reason for the rumored McDonald's move is that the museum has been subject to repeated flooding. It's also a concern of those who have expressed interest in the motel site, Petkov said.
"Just that one spot, the way it's designed, there's been historical flooding there every year," Petkov said.
He said any future development would have to be built on an elevated base to avoid floodwaters, should they come in the future.
The two-story, 9,000-square-foot brick motel building has sat vacant since last year's floods. Bringing it up to code -- let alone doing renovations to reopen the motel -- would be "crazy expensive," said George Sakas, Des Plaines' director of community and economic development.
Demolition costs -- factoring in potential asbestos or lead paint removal costs -- could be upward of $70,000, Sakas said.
"The cost of renovation way, way exceeds any use they had, or potential use of those rooms," Sakas said. "It's a petri dish of mold."
Petkov said contractors interested in doing demolition work have already begun submitting bids.
The building was home to the first hospital in the Northwest suburbs, opened in 1931 by Dr. Frederick Heller and Dr. Arthur Purvis. At that time, the nearest hospital was in Evanston.
Called Northwestern Hospital, the facility had room for about 20 patients, could take and develop X-rays, and included a nursery with a glass window so family could see newborns from the hall, according to Philip Mohr, a curator at the Des Plaines History Center.
An Aug. 28, 1931, article in the Arlington Heights Herald -- the predecessor to the Daily Herald -- reported that the building was originally intended for a bank.
Mohr said other newspaper clippings from the time indicate a hospital may have been badly needed, due to frequently-occurring automobile accidents where streets such as Touhy Avenue, Northwest Highway, Rand Road and Golf Road intersect with River Road and Lee Street.
The hospital closed in 1952 as larger hospitals came into the area. Soon after, Archie Drury converted the building into the Drury Northwestern Motel -- a name that stuck until it was changed to the Polo Inn in 2005.