SYCAMORE – Amanda Aasen had grown accustomed to seeing the charred shell of the Wendy's that burned in January directly across from her house on State Street.
“It was getting kind of annoying, but eventually we got used to it,” she said. “Then we were starting to wonder, ‘When are they going to tear it down and rebuild the new one?’ ”
More than six months after the fire that left the chain restaurant at 439 E. State St. gutted and in ruins, crews from Rockford-based Northern Illinois Services on Friday began razing the eyesore, which will eventually become an open field of grass city officials hope will attract future businesses.
Demolition will take a couple of days, according to Brian Amling, project manager with Northern Illinois Services.
By 10:30 a.m. Friday, crews had already removed most of the debris and even surrounding foliage from the site using dump trucks.
“With buildings we demolish, the wood and other things that are building materials are taken to a landfill facility,” Amling said. “The concrete and the asphalt of the parking lots are taken to a recycling facility.”
The property will eventually be a vacant lot again, which makes it more attractive to prospective businesses, Mayor Ken Mundy said.
He said he’d welcome any kind of eatery there, be it local or another chain establishment.
“We have every confidence that there will be a food business that will want to be there,” Mundy said. “It was a productive store, the only one on that side of town with a drive-thru.”
The city issued a demolition permit last month after meeting several hurdles that delayed the process. The owner, based in China, and his agent, based in Washington state, also had to obtain permits from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, the Illinois Department of Transportation and the state before demolition could begin.
Although it was hot and humid when crews finally began tearing down the restaurant Friday, it was freezing when it caught fire Jan. 9. Kirkland, DeKalb, Genoa-Kingston and Cortland assisted Sycamore in extinguishing the blaze in single-digit temperatures. There were no injuries.
Aasen said she watched it happen from her front porch.
“It was very upsetting,” she said. “You could hear the popping of everything and everything going on. I walked over here and it was like a glass of ice.”
While Aasen said she’s bummed the Wendy’s isn’t coming back, she’s still in favor of another restaurant within walking distance, although she’d prefer it not be McDonald’s.
“I prefer the smaller business over the big business,” Aasen said, “because I’d rather have the small people make the money than the big people ... who just shove it in their pockets and don’t put it back out there.”