While the new Pete’s Fresh Market on Madison Street hasn’t been built yet, the grocery store is rolling ahead in ways not visible to the naked eye. Tammie Grossman, Oak Park director of development customer services, told Wednesday Journal the project is definitely happening, despite rumors that would have residents believe otherwise.
“You might think that progress isn’t happening because you don’t see the progress happening, but there’s been a lot of progress going on in the background,” she said.
Before building the new grocery store, utilities need to be moved and relocated. The village and Pete’s are working with AT&T, ComEd and Nicor to do so, according to Grossman.
“We have to design where the new utility lines are going to go because they’re in the way of the building, but they still have to be there,” she said, adding that new senior living development being built across Madison Street is having to relocate utilities as well.
The utility companies have to get on board with helping to design a spot to relocate the utilities. The work necessitates much coordination between the companies, Pete’s and the village.
Construction crews will also have to move the sewer line that runs down the middle of Euclid Avenue for Pete’s, according to Grossman, so that it does not run underneath the ramp leading into the planned underground parking. The line will be placed further west in what will be the new surface level parking lot.
As with everyone else in the world, COVID-19 has presented some challenges to the utility companies that are still being resolved, she said.
“There’s been a lot of COVID-related delays,” Grossman said.
One of those delays has been in procuring refrigeration and freezer equipment. The pandemic has greatly slowed supply chains for certain industries.
“I was just talking to [Pete’s] recently, where they said they had started to place some orders for some of the equipment they needed for the store,” Grossman said. “Then due to COVID, the manufacturer had to back out.”
Pete’s is in the process of sourcing equipment again. Until the equipment has been acquired, Grossman said they can’t move forward with final designs of the building. She hopes that, once the issue related to equipment is resolved, Pete’s will soon be able to submit their final building permit application. Grossman is working with the grocery store on an updated construction schedule.
“There are a lot of delays that are beyond their control,” she said.
Environmental issues have also contributed to the delay. The two-block long parcel previously included a gas station at the corner of Oak Park Avenue and Madison Street and a now demolished auto dealership. As a result there are oil tanks beneath the surface. Those tanks need to be removed as part of the development process, according to Grossman, and it would not be unusual if additional environmental testing was needed uncover other tanks elsewhere on the property.
“The agreement that was negotiated with Pete’s provides that the village will contribute up to $1,650,000 to the environmental expenses for the clean-up of the parcels where the Pete’s store and parking lot will be located,” Grossman said. “The tank removal is a small part of that overall budget.”
She said the Pete’s team is conducting an environmental study of the Madison Street property to determine how much environmental cleanup needs to happen.
“They also have to work with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District to come up with a water retention plan,” she added. “And we’ve been working with them on that.”
Still, Pete’s remains very much committed to moving forward with its second Oak Park location. Grossman was quick to quash rumors circulating on social media that the grocery chain has backed out of the project.
“I saw some people post that on Facebook over the weekend,” she said. “And I weighed into the fray, which I normally don’t do, and said that wasn’t accurate.”