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Distressed properties are starting to move off banks' books. One clue: Englewood Construction's book of business is veering from ground-up to property renovations.

Bill Di Santo in Lemont, Ill.

This afternoon, Lemont-based Englewood prez Bill Di Santo told us his firm is getting more work from developers that want to spruce up strip malls (ahem, we mean neighborhood shopping centers) they acquired from banks—say, ones where vacant Kmarts sit in the anchor spots. Here, Bill, an architect, stands at his drafting table. In the window behind him is a horse sculpture, a souvenir from his dad's career. He tells us Dad Di Santo, who had a longtime interest in horses, was general manager of a few country clubs, and many more of those sculptures dotted the tables as centerpieces for his retirement from La Grange Country Club.

Pei Wei Asian Diner in Willowbrook, Ill.
Bill's firm has worked in 36 states in the past two years, but we also asked him what's new in Chicago. Englewood has built out two Pei Wei Asian Diners (like this one in Willowbrook and one in Mount Prospect) and is in negotiations to build out another in Streeterville to open in April. The concept is a P.F. Chang's offshoot, meant to be quicker and simpler. (We would have kept the name and just changed the P.F. to mean Please Finish.)