Published Jan. 29, 2015
Station shop sought to get on board,
replace Cosi in depot
By Ken Knutson
It sees hundreds of visitors everyday, but it’s looking for a new long-term relationship.
The commercial space within the Hinsdale Train Station has been vacant since Cosi restaurant packed up and left town last summer.
The building, built in 1899, is an important historical landmark as well as a central gathering place, said Hinsdale resident and former village trustee Rich Ciccarone.
It had housed multiple vendors for years until Ciccarone began his village board tenure in 1999. Among its tenants were a coin dealer, a tailor and a coffee shop. He said the officials wanted to be more strategic about the building’s utility for the commuters that passed through daily.
“We wanted to get something in there that would provide refreshments and warmth to the commuters for the longest hours that we could. Something that was open, something that was lit up, something that would provide maximum service to the community,” Ciccarone said. “There’s definitely public benefit that was part of that strategy.”
Officials decided to enlist MDC Properties as a broker to broaden exposure of the station space within the private sector.
Cosi eventually emerged as the tenant selected. As part of the restaurant design, a brick oven was installed, which Ciccarone noted might need to be demolished depending on the specifications of a potential new tenant.
And Tim Scott, the village’s director of economic development and urban planning, has indicated that potential is promising. He said the village has been fielding inquiries for the space, due both to general marketing and his proactive prospecting.
“I showed the space to numerous parties, and multiple times to several of them,” he stated, noting that a request for proposals also was issued to ensure an open process.
The village has narrowed its original list of a half-dozen candidates to three, Scott reported, with a front-runner from whom officials are awaiting a formal letting of intent.
“Agreement on a formal lease would then take place,” he said, outlining the approval process. “Once agreed to, plan development, permit review, build-out and the restaurateur’s hiring/operations would reportedly take approximately five months.”
For now, commuters are being allowed to escape the winter chill inside the vacant building until their trains arrive.
Village merchant Café La Fortuna has also been offering coffee and refreshments for sale.
“That’s helpful. That’s welcome,” said Ciccarone, who commutes to Chicago on a regular basis. “You need life and services for travelers, commuters, because it’s kind of a gateway into the community. I’ve always felt the best communities are those that take care of their space along the tracks. It just makes for a better overall community.”