Wrecking ball headed for DiLeo’s restaurant/bank building at Central-Elston, with no immediate plans to build there
by BRIAN NADIG
The former DiLeo’s restaurant building at Central and Elston avenues, where in more recent years a bank operated, will soon be demolished.
For decades DiLeo’s was one of the most famous restaurants on the Northwest Side, with its upscale cuisine and large banquet facilities. On the day it closed in the late 1990s, there were reports of a wedding party showing up for its reception only to find out that it was out of business.
In 2000 the building was renovated and become home to Citizens Bank and Trust, which was later acquired by Republic Bank. The building has been unoccupied since the bank closed in 2014.
Zoning and tax attorney John Pikarski Jr. said that the owner decided to have the building demolished due to the burden of high property taxes, described as “upwards of $100,000” a year, and the expense of general upkeep of the structure, including maintenance, insurance and security. A fence recently went up around the property.
There are no immediate plans to build on the 33,000-square-foot parcel, as area residents last year opposed a proposed four-story, mixed-use development for the site. The proposal was reduced from 52 to 45 apartments following feedback from the Gladstone Park Neighborhood Association, but Alderman James Gardiner (45th) said that the revisions were not enough to address the concerns of the neighborhood.
“If it is not something supported by the community, then I’m not for it,” Gardiner said Thursday morning.
“As always, once an acceptable proposal is submitted to my office, I will immediately seek feedback from community group members, residents, as well as the general public,” Gardiner posted on his Facebook page. He added, “I want to assure our residents that there are not any updated development plans for this site.”
In a Sept. 27, 2019, letter to Gardiner, the association wrote that about 40 residents at an association meeting “voiced serious concerns” about the proposal.
“In general, the view was that the (proposal) was too dense for the location, especially when taking into consideration traffic, safety, parking and proposed property ingresses/egresses. … There also is a serious concern that if one property is upzoned, a chain reaction could develop in the future which would significantly increase the future density of the area and cause additional issues,” the letter said.
In addition, at last year’s meeting concerns were raised about the viability of the proposed commercial space on the ground floor of the development. Some residents noted that there are several nearby vacant storefronts just to the north of Colletti’s Restaurant, 5707 N. Central Ave., according to the letter.
The letter also said that some residents questioned whether there would be a demand for the project’s smaller units, studio and one-bedroom apartments.
The development would include three floors of market-rate apartments constructed over parking, with a total of 57 spaces, and a one-story, 4,000-square-foot commercial space at the corner of the Central-Elston intersection, Pikarski said.
“This property takes its character from Elston, which is clearly a commercial street,” Pikarski said.
Thirteen studio apartments were eliminated from the project at the request of the community, with more one-bedroom and two-bedroom units added, Pikarski said. The number of three-bedroom apartments remains at three, as originally proposed.
Immediately to the south of the site along Central is a series of 2 ½- and 3-story apartment buildings. Some residents at least year’s meeting recommended two-flats for the site, according to the letter.
“In years past, our community has witnessed the effects of poor communication, or lack thereof, from our local elected officials regarding possible developments and therefore want to assure residents that your feedback on any development within our ward are both encouraged and valued,” Gardiner wrote on Facebook.
(Photos by Rob Mandik)