The façade of one of the village’s most visible corner properties hasn’t changed much in the last four or five decades, but no one seems to weeping over a renovation project that will remove the 1950s-era paneling from the former Reich and Becker real estate office.
“If that’s not the ugliest building it’s certainly right up there as one of the ugliest buildings on the street,” owner Jerry Vainisi said of his single-story commercial property at 7328 Madison St.
For little more than a week now, crews have been at the corner of Circle and Madison streets tearing off the white panels that have hidden the structure’s red brick exterior for decades. The building’s former owner and longtime tenant Carl Schwebl said he believes the paneling was installed in the late 1950s or early ’60s as the property changed hands and new commercial tenants rolled through. Most recently, Schwebl’s real estate office occupied the prime location until Schwebl’s retirement shuttered the business late last year. Prior to that, he said, the site was home to a specialty gift shop, a pharmacy, and going way back, a German tavern.
A children’s clothing store occupies a portion of the property owned by Vainisi, but the corner storefront has sat vacant since late October. An adjoining property that’s not owned by Vainisi is home to Kay’s Pastries, a bakery that still bears the decorating tastes of yesteryear.
Vainisi said he’s removing the paneling on his storefronts to help market the property to prospective tenants, most likely a retailer. He has no strong feelings as to whether the property will continue to be leased as two units, he said.
As the president and owner of the Forest Park National Bank, also on Madison Street, Vainisi has been a key player in the gentrification of this bustling strip. Most recently, a popular and locally owned ice cream parlor relocated its operation into another Vainisi-owned property on Madison Street that once housed a movie theater during the early to mid 1900s.
“Jerry is one of the leaders on the street,” said Schwebl, who sold the corner property to Vainisi several years ago. “He puts his money where his mouth is.”
Commercial real estate leasing agent David King has had a personal and professional relationship with both Vainisi and Schwebl for years. He’s marketing the property for Vainisi and revealed that a number of prospects have made inquiries, but either the business or the price hasn’t been right, he said. Despite a slumping economy, King said he has no doubts the location is still tremendously attractive and all but guaranteed a tenant by year’s end.
Both Schwebl and King said the exterior renovations are a step in the right direction for the building specifically, but also for the street as a whole. Schwebl described the paneled façade as “old, worn out and tired.”
King agreed that it was time for a change.
“Ownership thought it would be a great idea [to renovate] and I heartily concur that it was time to rip off those metal panels that were installed in the ’50s or ’60s,” King said.