River Forest is asking a Cook County Court judge to declare the former Dominick’s Finer Foods site uninhabitable and order Fresh Thyme and Mid-America Real Estate to fix up or raze the long-shuttered building at 7501 North Ave.
In a lawsuit filed Thursday in Maybrook Court, the village is seeking a temporary restraining order to get the companies involved to immediately provide a structural engineering report needed to assess the condition of the decades-old building.
As part of this restraining order, the village wants staff and consulting engineers to be able to inspect the premises and ensure that both companies – Fresh Thyme, the tenant and Mid-America the landlord — keep the building up to code.
River Forest is reserving the right to seek fines for as long as the building has not been in compliance with village code, Village Administrator Eric Palm said.
The intent of the court action is to gain compliance, meaning, “we want to see Fresh Thyme operational,” Palm said.
The building has not been in compliance at least since Feb. 19 when a brick façade on the northeast side of the building collapsed. The village issued a stop work order because of the dangerous conditions posed by the exterior wall.
After the collapse the building itself was shored in such a manner that the right of way, including the sidewalk and parkway, along Monroe Avenue adjacent to the property was, and remains, obstructed and cannot be used by the public, according to the lawsuit.
Since the incident, River Forest has asked Fresh Thyme and Mid-America as many as 15 times to provide an engineering report and repair plan to remedy the structural defects in the building and quickly bring it into compliance. The last request was on April 20, just three days before the village board heard an update on the situation and Palm told the board that the village would take both companies to court.
The suit comes more than two years after Fresh Thyme announced it planned to turn the vacant Dominick’s Finer Foods site into a grocery store. River Forest had looked at filling the site as a priority in its plans to revitalize North Avenue.
Build-out issues have plagued the project since the fall of 2014. Renovations were pegged to start in early 2015 with the opening anticipated for November 2015.
Construction didn’t start until the summer of 2015 and the opening was scheduled for February 2016. Even more delays pushed that date back to spring.
Then the brick façade gave way, and that area was not a part of a store wall that structural engineers earlier determined had to be rebuilt. That problem arose as interior demolition of the building was being done, setting back the opening of the store until August.
Justin Haasch, director of real estate and market research for Fresh Thyme, and Mike George, a principal for Mid-America, could not be reached for comment.