I'm happy to report an old gas station on the corner of Ashland Avenue and Joe Orr Road is seeing some new activity this week.
Several months ago we featured the vacant property at 525 Ashland Avenue on Patch and asked residents what should go in the empty storefront, which was once a Great American Bagel.
Along with suggestions for restaurants and stores, many of the comments were about why the property was empty in the first place: that old gas station.
"That eyesore of an empty gas station is pretty much telling businesses to stay away," said J.R. in the comments section of the article. "Get rid of that first then maybe something will come."
David Klinger, the last owner of the Great American Bagel, noted several issues with the property but honed in on the gas station as a key problem.
"First off the gas station is a complete eyesore and blocks the street view of this mall," Klinger said. "Most people just drive by and don't even notice it's there. Remove the gas station and enlarge the parking lot."
Chicago Heights Mayor David Gonzalez gave a lengthy response when asked about the gas station, stating that there are fuel tanks beneath the property and that he did not want to burden the City of Chicago Heights with an environmental issue by acquiring the property.
"The former owner of that place, his responsibility is to take those gas tanks out of there," Gonzalez said. "Whoever acquires that property with those gas tanks underneath is liable for any environmental issues that occur with the property."
Well, if you've driven past the intersection this week, you probably noticed the construction equipment and the huge gas tanks emerging from the dirt. I asked one of the construction workers and he confirmed that they are removing the old gas tanks at the request of the former owner of the property.
With the city having liens against the property already, Chicago Heights can enforce its liens as soon as those tanks are gone.
But what will the city do with the property? Gonzalez said when the tanks were gone the property would become marketable. Should the city acquire the property and sell it? Should the old gas station become a new parking lot?
Employees at Zarlengo's Italian Ice and Gelato said they would be happy to see something positive done on the corner.
What do you think should be the next step in breathing new life into the northwest corner of Joe Orr Road and Ashland Avenue?