Sugar Beet co-op on Madison Street?

Group will seek Madison Street TIF money to help with $1.6 million fundraising goal

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Things are moving quickly with the proposed Sugar Beet food cooperative, and members of the organization say they are in final negotiations with a Realtor for a 10-year lease somewhere within the Madison Street tax increment financing district.

Tom Hollinden, a core committee member of the co-op, told members of the village board's Economic Development Committee Monday that the co-op still needs to raise $1.6 million to get the store opened. Hollinden said in an interview with Wednesday Journal that the prospective location is somewhere on Madison Street, but he declined to give an exact location.

"We're in negotiations but we don't have a signed lease," he said, noting that he expects the lease to be signed by January 2014.

He said the organization will seek a contribution from the area's Madison Street TIF district, but it's uncertain how much the group will request.

Sugar Beet will launch a capital campaign early next year, and Hollinden told board members that the group already has pledges of 10 percent of the donations needed toward the $1.6 million. 

"We have the ability to do member loans with members of the co-op," he said, noting that the organization would also seek loans from traditional lending institutions, as well as the village. Former village trustee Greg Marsey, who is a member of the co-op, told the board that the store would be "one of the few [TIF] projects that is truly a community project" because it will be owned and supported largely by Oak Park residents.

"It seems to me Madison Street is an exercise in reclaiming one corner at a time," Marsey said. "I hope this project could reclaim that corner."

Village board members roundly supported the concept of the food co-op, but Village President Anan Abu-Taleb said the group has to show how the project will improve the area.

"If we're going to give you X amount of money, how does that give back to the community?" he asked.

Hollinden tells Wednesday Journal that the group expects to return early next year with a formal request for the TIF funds. He declined to detail the amount the group will request. He said co-op members hope to have the grocery store open as early as late 2014 or early 2015. 


Reader Comments

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Madeleine Milan  

Posted: December 19th, 2013 5:50 PM

The idea is fine. They seem over engineered in my opinion.

Winter Skye  

Posted: December 19th, 2013 5:35 PM

@Save Dominick's: What is ridiculous about the bike racks? Ignorant comment.

Lining up for TIF handout  

Posted: December 19th, 2013 1:43 PM

I am guessing the Dominick's building is too large for Sugar Beet, but that is a good question. I am hoping Sugar Beet is not choosing a Madison St. location based on TIF fund financial aid, as it would bring to question their ethic of independence and business viability. The last person I want scheming for TIF funds is Greg Marsey, who campaigned against TIF funds for the Harlem-Ontario project. The Illinois TIF Act sets the guidelines for TIF funds, not Mr. Marsey's self-interests.

Save Dominick's from Oak Park  

Posted: December 19th, 2013 12:45 PM

Why doesn't the co-op consider the Domincks spaced, first of all? Second, I find it laughable that anyone involved in promoting or not actively stopping the new D97 building is all of a sudden demanding accountability for money the village might be spending on any project. What's our return for the D97 building? The ridiculous bike racks? The recharging station?

Violet Aura  

Posted: December 19th, 2013 10:52 AM

I was hoping they'd be opening in January if they sign their lease then. I wonder what the cross street is? I have visited the Dill Pickle Co-op in Logan Square and it's a pretty neat space to wander around in. Reminds me of an old-timey general store...

Village Voice  

Posted: December 19th, 2013 9:48 AM

Just want to add: for the $200,000 we are spending to replace the failed and crumbling bluestone speed table on North Marion St, we could do a heck of build-out of the Billy's Fruit Market store for these folks and let them have at it. Asphalt parking lots (sans charging stations) are just fine for us folks on the Washington and Madison corridors.

Village Voice  

Posted: December 18th, 2013 2:38 PM

Note to Village: Rather than squander our TIF money on bluestone streets with a lifespan of less than 5 years and questionable economic benefits, THIS is the kind of stuff we want OUR money spent on. Yours truly, VV. PS: Mr A-T, if you don't see the value to the community of a walkable, community-based food seller, then you're not as clever as you think you are. This is the stuff I moved to Oak Park for, and the extinction of locally based, walkable shops will be reason for me to leave.

Jacqueline from Urbana, IL  

Posted: December 18th, 2013 2:04 PM

I am so excited to see what your community is accomplishing toward getting your own food co-op opened. We have a food co-op in Urbana-Champaign, IL (I am on staff there) and what it has accomplished for supporting local farms and healthy food access is terrific.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 18th, 2013 1:01 PM

Sounds like a win-win.

Peter Nolan from Oak Park  

Posted: December 18th, 2013 10:00 AM

Go Sugar Beet go! A full-service grocery store with a focus on local foods. Owned by members, but everyone can shop there. Of the community, by the community, for the community. Learn more at

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