Smaller regional grocery chains have expressed interest in assuming or buying out the rest of the lease on the shuttered River Forest Dominick's store, village officials said recently.
And one chain could be ready to sign a letter of intent on the property as early as May, according to a principal in the real estate firm that owns the North Avenue building.
Mike George, with Mid-America Real Estate Properties, said firms are doing their due diligence, a sign that they are figuring out what it would take to get the property ready for occupancy.
George noted that in recent weeks he has provided access to the building so prospective tenants could check out the site, but declined to comment on the kind of companies that expressed interest.
Village Administrator Eric Palm acknowledged that in the last month or two architects and engineers have been asking about building code requirements so they can assess whether it would be costlier to raze or rehab the site.
George said that while it is an old building, it could be fixed up. A question would remain on how the work would be done and who would pay for it.
"We're moving things along," George said. "It moves at a pace a little slower than we hope."
"This is great news," Village President Catherine Adduci said. "I'm encouraged that the conversation is going on, and we'd be happy to sit down and talk about their prospects and do what we can to help them live in River Forest."
Safeway Inc., Dominick's parent company, announced last fall that it would leave the Chicago market, closing locations that had not been sold to other grocery chains or for other uses. Rumors of closing had been circulating for years although Mid-America and Dominick's signed a five-year lease extension in 2012 for the River Forest location. Dominick's moved out of the 25,000 square-foot location in December; about three years remains on that lease.
Unlike a newer store, such as one in Park Ridge where all a new tenant would have to do is clear out the shop, add new flooring, lights and facades, the River Forest location could have a lot of issues, Palm said.
The River Forest store was among the chain's smallest locations – and one of the oldest. In addition to the normal build-out costs of installing shelves, counters and the like, a prospective tenant would have to determine the condition of everything inside and outside of the store.
That would include the electrical system, plumbing, heating and cooling and fire alarm systems. Then there's the structure of the building itself – from the roof to the walls. They would look at the landscaping and parking lot.
"Some of the mechanical and electrical components are original. Older buildings tend to cost more," Palm said.
Palm is uncertain of the overall condition of the building. "We don't require an inspection unless a firm gets a building permit," he said.
The 2-acre site is considered high on River Forest's redevelopment list and there are hopes that a development could generate as much sales tax — some $100,000 annually — as Dominick's did. Officials also hope it could spark a revitalization of the entire North Avenue corridor.
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