Two grocers bow out of Madison St. project

Oak Park mayor: Village should consider extending Madison TIF for blockbuster project

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

It's been almost a year since the Oak Park Board of Trustees chose Jupiter Realty as the preferred developer for a mixed-use development on Madison Street that would transform the commercial corridor from Oak Park Avenue to Wesley avenues.

But both the village and the developer have been largely silent on the project over the last 11 months.

The issue has become a sticking point for some trustees elected earlier this year who are now positioned to vote on potential funding related to the project. The topic was brought up during a recent vote on the village's Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), which sets a guide for village spending in 2018. 

Three of the seven trustees – Simone Boutet, Deno Andrews and Dan Moroney – voted against the CIP in mid-October, citing the $13 million included in the spending plan for the Madison project, as part of the reason for their objection. 

That project not only would construct various residential and commercial buildings along both sides of the 600 and 700 blocks of Madison Street, it also would bend a portion of the road between Euclid and Wesley avenues to make room for an anchor tenant, which is expected to be a large retailer such as a grocery store.

That anchor tenant is central to the proposal, but Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb said in an interview with Wednesday Journal that two prospective grocers – Mariano's and Jewel – both showed interest in the location but ultimately chose not to sign on for the project.

The project is made possible by the village's ownership of a surface parking lot at the corner of Oak Park Avenue and Madison Street. Although Jupiter has been working to purchase or control other parcels of land along Madison Street for the project, it is uncertain whether the company has moved forward with purchasing any of the properties needed to move the project forward.

Among those parcels is a property just east of the parking lot, long occupied by Car-X Tire & Auto, 700 Madison St., which the board of trustees voted unanimously to purchase for $1.3 million in September. The decision by the board to purchase that property suggests that Jupiter is not ready to pull the trigger on land acquisition for the project just yet.

Jupiter executive vice president Jerry J. Ong did not return calls requesting an interview.

The financing of the mega-project is facing a difficult timeline with the expiration of the Madison Street Tax Increment Finance (TIF) district in December 2018. Village planners are hoping to use the TIF funds to help pay some of the costs of the project. 

Abu-Taleb acknowledged that the timing is difficult, and while not ideal, he said the village should consider extending the life of the TIF. Such an extension would add 12 additional years to the life of the TIF. Any TIF extension would require the buy-in of other local taxing bodies.

Abu-Taleb noted that something has to be done to help the Madison property in the area slated for development, which are underperforming in their contribution to the property tax base, generating a combined estimated $140,000 a year in property tax revenue. "It's not fair to the other properties (which contribute more to Oak Park's tax bill)," he said.

If the TIF expires next year without the village spending the current TIF funds, the balance will be split up and sent back to the village's various taxing bodies.

Although the project appears to be in peril absent an anchor tenant, Abu-Taleb said village planners and the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation are still working to attract another anchor. 

He said that although a deal does not appear imminent, things could change quickly and soon.

Abu-Taleb said he understands the frustration over the shortage of information on the status of the project, but urged the public to be patient. 

He used a baseball analogy to explain the situation: "The bases are loaded and we have two outs (Mariano's and Jewel), but we could have a home run next week."

Abu-Taleb later added: "We're only in the third inning."


Reader Comments

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Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: December 18th, 2017 9:51 PM

Please join the Oak Park Property Tax Watch group on Facebook.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: November 11th, 2017 7:57 PM

Aldi was allready in Oak Park at Lake and Humphrey.

Rob Wick from Oak Park  

Posted: November 9th, 2017 4:48 PM

Aldi is a discounter with low prices. Consistent with that, I'm sure they seek property that has good value and low taxes. I can't see Aldi having any interest in opening a store in a municipality with astronomical property taxes. However, if they were to open here while offering great prices and clearing a profit, I would propose that the next step after that would be for the management of that store to run for office in Oak Park.

Sarah Abboreno Corbin  

Posted: November 9th, 2017 4:29 PM

Oh man - don't you feel like we come back to the same conversations over and over again in our community? The neighbors around the Wesley/Madison block protested that Aldi years ago. These are my loved ACTUAL neighbors and it was so frustrating for me to watch that NIMBY attitude then - it would have been fantastic. Would still be fantastic. ALDI. And honestly - no harm to Sugar Beet. I shop all - Aldi, Sugar Beet and Jewel - even costco. So - bring it on! Also - I'm waiting. Not to say that I am a skeptic - but I get the pieces that have to fall into place for this. And it seems quite an uphill battle. What developer thinks we are suited to large scale grocery in the Madison corridor with our demographics and the proximity of like businesses? And who walks away from a functioning location and building to invest in rebuilding, increase their land lease or real estate investment costs AND ultimately add a tremendous amount of cost to their bottom line? It just hasn't made business sense to me. So. I'm waiting.

Natalie Rauch Kelly  

Posted: November 8th, 2017 10:06 PM

Richard Holland, what's wrong with Aldi? Have you ever shopped there? My guess is no. Aldi is fantastic and I would applaud an Aldi on Madison. I could finally shop here in Oak Park again for staples instead of trekking to Melrose Park or North Riverside. Aldi these days is not the Aldi of your childhood. Thought I worry once the secret gets out, it would be too crowded...

Bruce Kline  

Posted: November 8th, 2017 7:16 PM

Well here's another baseball analogy: bases loaded, two outs, and Mariano Rivera is coming in from the bullpen. Turn out the lights, Mr. Mayor, this game is OVER!

Jeff Schroeder from Oak Park  

Posted: November 8th, 2017 4:58 PM

We talk about generating property taxes and then we say it will cost $13 million. It would take a long time for a new anchor to generate that kind of money. Something like $250 million in revenues. TIF's are the funny money of local government. Pete's and Jewel are already here. Same for Target now. If Mariano's is out, that pretty much wraps it up for potential grocers.

Al Rossell  

Posted: November 8th, 2017 4:50 PM

No one at the Village ever seems to consider how much the lost revenue is by merely the Village owning the property. Lost real estate taxes, excessive purchase prices and usually some form of give away to get developers. Curious how many years it would take just to recoup the millions to make the "bend" before we even consider how many years after that to recoup the original costs and lost revenues. There is no doubt that Madison Street is under utilized but I remember when it was loaded with car dealers and we ran them out of town.

Josh Vanderberg from Oak Park  

Posted: November 8th, 2017 1:35 PM

Let the TIF lapse. Get out of the business of directly trying to encourage specific developments, get into the business of make Oak Park business friendly. Sell all vacant village owned property at auction.

Alice Wellington  

Posted: November 7th, 2017 4:14 PM

What we need is a productive use of land that generates property and sales taxes, instead of just sitting there. And what's wrong with Aldi? I think that seniors at Oak Park Arms and other budget-minded shoppers would appreciate having an inexpensive grocery option nearby.

Richard Holland  

Posted: November 7th, 2017 2:48 PM

How long before he abandons this foolish ego driven waste of resources. We don't need or want another grocery store, certainly not an Aldi. Give the funds back, stop increasing our property taxes so the "mayor" can feel important by means on needless new construction projects. The bend needs to be tossed in the "cap the IKE" pile and forgotten as the ignorant embarrassment it is. Kudos to the board members with sense enough to spot waste when they see it.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: November 7th, 2017 2:17 PM

There should be no extension of the Madison St. TIF until the Village board agrees to open the books to a public inspection and submits all records for a forensic accounting examination. Have the Oak Park TIFs been a boon or a bust for our community? No one seems able or willing to honestly answer that question.

Alice Wellington  

Posted: November 7th, 2017 2:09 PM

Get Aldi. It has smaller stores, and can fit the existing space without the bend.

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