Naperville’s ‘Newest’ Downtown Eyesore

Have you ever realized that something in your home has been there for so long, that you don’t even know it’s there. And then one day you ask your wife how long has ‘that’ been there, and she says, “It’s been there for years”. My wife is far more observant than I am, so I tend to have this happen.

It happened to me bright and early last Saturday. I realized the day before that I had one of those little punch cards from Einstein’s Bagels qualifying me for a dozen free bagels. It’s not easy qualifying. I had to have my card ‘punched’ twelve times, which means buying a dozen bagels twelve times and then getting a dozen free. It took me years to make that happen, but it happened.

I drove downtown very early Saturday hoping to find a parking spot on Chicago Avenue, which I did. It’s not that difficult at 6:10am. I placed my order and then proudly handed the bagel guy my punched-out card as if it was the Holy Grail. He said, “wow, we don’t take these any more”. As tears began to well up in my eyes, he said, ‘but I’ll take this one’.

As I left with my freshly baked and sliced bagels, I felt like this just might be the luckiest day of my life. I mean, I found the card, a parking spot, and a bagel guy with some compassion.

It may have been the tears giving me a more clear view, but as I stepped outside, I looked across the street and noticed the building on the southeast corner of Chicago Avenue and Main Street was still unfinished, as it has been for years. The city council had glowingly given approval in 2012 for Empire by Ballydoyle  to open an eatery at that prime real-estate location. It’s 2015 and nothing appears to be happening. In fact, the restaurant space has been vacant since July 2010 when a fire gutted the former home of Rosebud restaurant. That location has also seen its share of flooding.

In essence, it has become the newest eyesore in downtown Naperville replacing the strip-center on the east side of Washington Street just north of Burger King, which was vacant for years before ceremonial destruction of the building facsimile during a city council meeting, when North Central College bought the property.

I called the City to find out what’s happening with the Chicago at Main street property, leaving four messages with various staff members and department heads, and I heard nothing but crickets. One staff member did say, “Oh, I didn’t know anything was at that location”, and another staff member tried to convince me the delay was due to weather. I suppose global warming or cooling is always a good excuse.

Then late Tuesday,  I received a call from Paul Felstrup, Project Manager. He proceeded to explain that things are happening on the south side of the building, at a slow but necessary pace. The development of the project has outlasted the original development manager (Anastasia Urban) in the city’s transportation, engineering and development department. Since the project was approved in 2012, Naperville has a new mayor, six of the eight council members are new, and the Cubs have gone from one of the worst teams in baseball to one of the best teams.

Whether the delay is on the part of the developer, or the City, one thing is for sure; at this point in the project, nobody has to be concerned about fires and floods at that location. And just like an eyesore, if you look at it long enough, it begins to blend in and look normal.

Show 3 Comments


  1. OK, first Anastasia was not development manager for the city when the Empire project was approved. And everything in the second to last paragraph of this article has happened since residents filed their last income tax return, so less than a year (around 6 months.) This paragraph is completely misleading and total hyperbola, which should give you a good idea about the perspective of this article.

    I live in downtown and have been watching and paying attention to this development for apparently a lot longer then the writer of this article. Has progress be slow? Yes, but it is a big project. First off the old Rosebud buildings are only part of this project, which is made up of three buildings in total.

    The old Rosebud buildings had to be gutted because of the degree of fire damage, which was slow going because of concerns about the structural integrity of these two buildings after the fire. Once this was done a complete study of the structure was completed and a solution to fix structural problems was engineered. The building to the east of these buildings was also acquired and made part of this project.

    There was about three years of work just gutting, cleaning up and maintaining the facades of these buildings. There was over a year of placing steel structural reinforcement inside of these building and integrating them all structurally.

    The last year has involved removing the back side of the first building that was part of Rosebud’s. This including a back deck and flooring that hangs over the River. Anytime you are doing construction over such a waterway there are environmental issues that have to be addressed and remediation, which slows construction.

    The closed off side walk and parking has only be in place about a year. During most of this project little if anything seemed to be changing on the outside of these buildings, so other then a few boarded up windows these buildings were no more an eyesore or distraction then they had been when they were occupied by other businesses.

    It would have been nice to have this project completed by now, but I would rather they take their time and get it right. A rush to completion that results in a project that looks like several buildings cobbled together, is a hazard to public safety and leaves a contaminated river to be cleaned up would in no way be acceptable.

  2. Grant W.

    I know they were accepting resumes in 2013…seems like the loss of the use of the sidewalk and parking space is of no consequence for the city. I wonder if the loss of foot traffic is affecting the businesses on the southside of Chicago ave.

    Gives me something to look forward to at the former site of Rizzos on Jefferson Street. One eyesore deserves another a block away.

    Eamus Catuli!

  3. Chuck Kasper


    The writer clearly should stick to fiction. Did he really need the Einstein bagel intro?

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