Why Des Plaines might buy and demolish three downtown buildings

Calling them dilapidated eyesores, Des Plaines officials want to buy three commercial buildings in the downtown area, raze them and create green space.

If the owners don't accept a purchase offer, the city could forcibly buy the sites through eminent domain.

The buildings are at 269 S. Des Plaines River Road, 281 S. Des Plaines River Road and 299 S. Des Plaines River Road. They're next to each other on the east side of the road, just north of Hills Avenue.

Waldo's Auto Repair operates in one of the buildings, and Quality Beauty Supply is in another, next to a former electronics repair shop. The third building - 299 S. River, right at the corner - is vacant, although signs from its previous life as a liquor store still hang out front.

The buildings have no architectural uniformity or appeal. Their parking lots are sun-bleached, stained and cracked.

Grassy areas near the roadway are small and patchy; one is overgrown. Weeds grow unchecked.

Remodeling the buildings would be cost prohibitive because they're in a floodplain and would need to be raised if any construction work is done, city officials said.

The city council has been talking about purchasing the sites for about a year and negotiating with the owners, City Manager Michael Bartholomew said.

At their meeting Monday, council members could decide whether to make final offers for the properties. They also could agree to pursue forcing a sale in court if the offers are rejected.

The buildings are within the city's 1st Ward. Alderman Mark Lysakowski said nearby residents are sick of looking at them.

"It looks absolutely atrocious," Lysakowski said of the area.

In addition to being more attractive, turning the land into green space would help with stormwater retention, he said. That's important because of the floodplain.

Lysakowski also envisions a large, decorative fountain - like the one in neighboring Rosemont - being built on the site.

The meeting is set for 7 p.m. at city hall, 1420 Miner St.

Bartholomew wouldn't disclose the proposed purchase prices, citing the need for confidentiality before an offer is made.

If the council opts to make offers, they'd be delivered within the next couple of weeks, Bartholomew said. The owners would have 30 days to respond.

"None of this is a quick process," Bartholomew said.

Zenon Wegielnik, who has owned and operated Waldo's Auto Repair since 1995 and owns the land it stands on, said he's open to selling the property. He's 72 and ready to retire, he said.

Quality Beauty Supply's owner couldn't be reached.

Monday's meeting is open to the public. You also can livestream it at

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  Des Plaines officials want to buy and demolish three dilapidated commercial buildings on South River Road. They include Waldo's Auto Repair and Quality Beauty Supply. Brian Hill/
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