Oak Park’s Marshall Field’s building is let at last – or will be in the near future. Dom’s Kitchen & Market is set to open its first suburban location in the historic structure at 1144 Lake St. While lease negotiations are still underway, the upscale grocery/restaurant/food hall has landed a sales tax rebate sharing agreement with the Village of Oak Park.

Securing the agreement was “essential” to “move the project forward,” according to Draper and Kramer’s Mike Mallon,  who is representing Dom’s.

Under the agreement, the Village of Oak Park will split half the local sales tax revenue generated from the retailer’s alcohol, grocery and retail sales with Dom’s for a period of 20 years.

The agreement comes at the recommendation of the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation to make the two-level space, which has been primarily vacant for the last 11 years, more attractive to the retailer. OPEDC expects Dom’s to bring in $350,000 in total annual sales taxes.

All village board members present at the board’s Aug. 1 meeting voted to concur with the OPEDC, directing staff to draft a final agreement to be voted on at a later date. Trustee Arti Walker-Peddakotla was unable to attend the meeting.

“We are very excited about bringing Dom’s Kitchen & Market to Oak Park,” Mallon told Wednesday Journal.

In exchange for the village’s partnership, OPEDC has requested Dom’s commit to hiring staff from local minority hiring programs, minimize the use of plastic in packaging and work with anti-hunger organizations to donate food. Dom’s will also be subject to the village’s 10-cent plastic bag fee.

Dom’s Kitchen & Market is a hybrid food model launched by a triumvirate of grocery executives, including Bob Mariano, founder of Mariano’s and former CEO of Dominick’s. The other two co-founders are former Mariano’s and Dominick’s executive Don Fitzgerald and Jay Owen, the great-grandson of Dominick’s founder Dominick DiMatteo.

The grocery store project aims to expand quickly. The first Dom’s location opened only last summer in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. A second location in Old Town will open this November. Dom’s plans to have a total of 15 stores opened by 2025. The Oak Park location has a planned opening date for the third quarter of 2023.

“If this store is not open by the third quarter of next year, I won’t be talking. I’m going to be in there building,” Mallon told the board.  

Dom’s is a “unicorn” tenant for the old Marshall Field and Company Store, according to John Lynch, OPEDC’s executive director. The market will occupy the building’s ground floor and lower level but does not require much in the way of parking.

The building was most recently occupied by a Border’s bookstore, which closed in 2011. Office space is leased on the upper floors, but the building has been over a decade without a primary tenant, despite being located on the prominent corner of Lake Street and Harlem Avenue.

Finding a tenant has been a high priority of OPEDC’s, according to Cory Wesley, chairman of the OPEDC board of directors. Dom’s will not only occupy the space but activate that part of downtown.

“Things kind of fall off a little bit once you get past a certain point on Lake Street going west,” Wesley told Wednesday Journal. “Having a key tenant there will really bring some life back to that part of the street.”

The concept of Dom’s was inspired by European food halls, which resonated with Nick Karras, the owner of the Marshall Field’s building.

“That’s where my family started in this country – a Greek family in the grocery business,” said Karras.

Karras has been working to restore the building’s historic façade, but Dom’s will still require major construction. Mallon said “a lot of attention will be paid” to make the building more energy efficient.

Construction costs are estimated between $6.5 to $8 million which is more than Dom’s has spent on its other locations. The sales tax agreement will not entirely mitigate those costs but will help to defray costs considerably, according to OPEDC.

This is not the village’s first foray into shared sales tax agreements. It entered into a similar agreement in 2015 to develop the Sherwin Williams paint store on Madison Street. The village board entered into another shared sales tax agreement in 2016 to develop 1 Lake St. into One Lake Brewery.

The village board was widely pleased with the prospect of entering into a sales tax agreement with Dom’s, with all present board members voting in favor of doing so. Trustee Jim Taglia kept in line with the grocery theme when offering his support:

“Half a loaf is better than none,” he said. “And I’ll take that half a loaf.”

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