Long-vacant restaurant building in downtown Des Plaines again avoids condemnation

The owner of a long-vacant restaurant building in downtown Des Plaines that’s facing possible condemnation by the city has been given three more months to finalize a deal with a prospective tenant.

If a pact isn’t reached by Dec. 4, aldermen said Tuesday, the city could forcibly purchase the property at 1504 Miner St. — something officials have been threatening for months.

The 4,400-square-foot building once housed Leona’s Italian restaurant. It’s been unused since 2017.

City officials tried to negotiate a purchase from owner Jim Karkazis but weren’t successful. They began pursuing condemnation through eminent domain earlier this year, but 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 Tuesday.

During Tuesday’s city council meeting, Karkazis said he’s agreed to terms for a lease with the prospective tenant but hasn’t yet signed a deal because the entrepreneur — a Des Plaines resident — is trying to line up financing.

After a lengthy discussion, 3rd Ward Alderman Sean Oskerka called for a vote on condemning the property.

But the conversation continued and eventually 6th Ward Alderman Mark Walsten proposed giving Karkazis until December to finalize a lease. The council voted 5-3 in favor of the extension.

Oskerka, Aldermen Mark Lysakowski of the 1st Ward and Colt Moylan of the 2nd Ward voted against the extension.

Moylan complained about the lengthy vacancy and the building’s plywood-covered facade.

“Frankly, I’m tired of looking at that,” Moylan told Karkazis.

In response, Karkazis said he’s put “several hundreds of thousands of dollars into the space” since Leona’s closed.

Karkazis also said condemnation could affect his ability to secure a lease agreement.

Fourth Ward Alderman Dick Sayad was among the council members who favored the extension.

“We’ve been patient,” he told Karkazis. “We want you to be successful. We want you to make money. But we want to know when … are we going to see some results.”

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