Oak Park moves forward on grocer, senior housing

Pete's Fresh Market and Essex Communities clears hurdle, still almost three years away

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

The Oak Park Board of Trustees moved forward with a developer's plan to build a grocery store and senior living facility on Madison Street near Oak Park Avenue. But the board's approval of a redevelopment agreement at its Dec. 10 meeting is just the beginning of a process that could take until 2021 to complete.

The redevelopment agreement (RDA) with Jupiter Realty and its partners, approved by the board of trustees in a 6-1 vote – Trustee Simone Boutet was the sole dissenting vote – proposes to build a 41,500-square-foot Pete's Fresh Market at 644 Madison St. The grocery store would take the place of the vacant Foley-Rice building, which is immediately east of the village-owned parking lot at the northeast corner of Madison Street and Oak Park Avenue.

The village-owned parking lot will be redeveloped into a 112-space parking lot for Pete's.

Jupiter also partnered with Paragon Real Estate to build an 8-story senior housing facility at 711 Madison St. – the site of a different Foley-Rice building that is currently occupied by Evolution Fitness Club and TranscenDance Studios – and would be owned and operated by Essex Communities of Omaha, Nebraska.

The senior living facility would be located on the south side of Madison Street and run west of Wesley Avenue and past South Euclid Avenue, closing Euclid to thru traffic.

Euclid also would be closed on the north side of Madison Street – the Pete's parking will run from the corner of Oak Park Avenue and Madison Street to just past where Euclid will now dead end. The Pete's would be between Wesley and the Euclid cul-de-sac.

The development also includes a 5,000-square-foot freestanding retail space in the Pete's parking lot at the corner of Oak Park and Madison. 

Some of those costs will be paid for with funds from the Madison Street Tax Increment Finance District, a special taxation district that expires at the end of this year and holds roughly $13 million.

Under the redevelopment agreement, the village would contribute $3 million for the Foley-Rice building at 644 Madison and up to $2.3 million in environmental remediation of the three sites: up to $900,000 for the parking lot at Oak Park and Madison; up to $750,000 for the Foley-Rice building at 644 Madison St.; and up to $685,000 for the Foley-Rice building at 710 Madison St.

The village also would contribute land worth about $3 million and spend roughly $4 million in public improvements around the developments, putting the final taxpayer price tag at more than $12 million.

If the environmental remediation costs come in under the spending caps, Tammie Grossman, director of Oak Park's Development Customer Services Department, said the developers could use the remaining funds on other eligible TIF expenses. She said that if the environmental costs turn out to be more expensive than the caps, then the developer could come back and request more funds from the village or choose to pay the costs themselves.

Environmental costs could be critical to the project because the village purchased Car-X Tire & Auto, 700 Madison St., in 2017 for $1.3 million in anticipation of a forthcoming Jupiter development -- Oak Park also paid $141,000 to have the auto shop torn down in October.

Concern over the environmental cleanup stems in part from an unexpected $3 million the village paid in 2016, when the Emerson Apartments were being built in downtown Oak Park. The village had to dip into the Downtown Oak Park TIF to cover the cost of cleaning up leaking oil tanks at the construction site.

The RDA notes that Pete's is expected to spend $22 million on the project and the developer will spend $52 million on the senior housing building.

Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb said the development is projected to generate about $32 million in sales and property tax revenue over the first 20 years.

The RDA states that the Pete's is projected to generate $35 million a year in sales and bring in an estimated $587,000 annually in real estate taxes and $546,000 in sales taxes. The senior living facility is expected to generate about $473,000 in real estate taxes annually.

Grossman said the RDA is a 20-year agreement between the village and the developer and prohibits both Pete's and Essex from appealing their property taxes for the first 20 years.

Joshua Klayman, founder of the political organization VOICE of Oak Park and a candidate for village trustee in 2019, asked the board during public comment if it was wise to vote on a plan that is "incomplete and vague at this point."

He said the board largely made the decision to advance the plan by Jupiter and its partners at the recommendation of the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation, which is tasked with bringing business development to the village.

"It's particularly a problem that the economic development corporation and staff don't present fully developed alternatives for the board but rather that there's one preferred plan and it's thumbs up or thumbs down and that's not a very good way to make decisions," Klayman said.

The proposal still must go through the village's Plan Commission review process and then return to the village board for final approval.

A preliminary schedule notes that the developer is expected to submit an application to the village by the end of March and a review is expected to be completed in early August. If the board of trustees approves the project, construction would begin in spring of 2020 and be completed by fall of 2021.

Abu-Taleb said after the vote that the Madison Street TIF has been in place since 1995 and no board has ever successfully developed the corridor.

"Only in the very last year of that TIF, year number 23, after so many boards have tried and so many staff have tried, we have been able to have developers who are interested in investing in the Madison corridor, and they will be taking a risk …" he said.

He reminded the board that if the TIF funds aren't dedicated for a project before the tax district expires at the end of the year, "the village will have to go borrow the money at the village expense and the village pays that debt alone even though we don't get 100 percent of the benefit."


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Reader Comments

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Bruce Kline  

Posted: December 26th, 2018 4:22 PM

Robert: I agree 100%. Money is necessary but not sufficient.

Robert Milstein from Oak Park   

Posted: December 26th, 2018 1:26 PM

Bruce, even with the money...they need a solid campaign team with a plan to garner support and votes. With so many candidates they need to do more than rely on local media or the inevitable debates...Door by door by door , starting early and meeting people and asking for their vote. If you want to elect good you candidates, you need people working for you. Organization matters. Voices has the lead by virtue of numbers of supporters and some in that group have run campaigns. While ideas and money matter, organization is the key.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: December 25th, 2018 6:07 PM

I agree Neal. But in politics "money talks nobody walks" (from an old radio ad for a NJ clothing store in the 60's). By that I mean both Bridgett and Cory will need funds to support their campaign. So everyone who feels as Neal and I do, go to their web sites and pony up. I know Bridgett has one. I don't know about Cory.

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: December 25th, 2018 2:33 PM

We need to add Bridgett Baron and Cory Wesley to the board in April. If we can do that, we will have a majority of common sense trustees. Then, all this high rise, road diet nonsense will cease.

Peter R. Ibarra from Oak Park  

Posted: December 25th, 2018 2:10 PM

Enough with the variances and tax beaks. We are promised lower property taxes, but they go up year after year, and all we have to show for the burden is more congestion, tall and ugly buildings, and corruption. We need to clean house on local government.

Neal Buer  

Posted: December 25th, 2018 8:37 AM

Robert, you speak truth to power. I totally agree with you. This administration ignores zoning, and negotiates every deal individually to remain in control. Rather than building inspectors, we have consulting architects and engineers from out of state who nitpick our local architects. On single family house was reviewed by an out of state firm, and they made over 100 changes be made before an approval was given.

Robert Milstein  

Posted: December 25th, 2018 8:12 AM

Tom there are many backstories to Development in Oak Park. Letting the Colt building (Target) deteriorate until a sweetheart deal could be carried out( NLP ended that). Millions to subsidize a billionaire so he could build a stalag behind Marshall Fields. Early morning meetings to avoid the media and by pass the open meetings act. (President Trapani at the time). No one opposed development, it was varying visions of what Oak Park should look and feel like. We are not a high rise community. Golub's Taj Ma Tall is a monstrosity that violates common sense, and Golub knows it is not good ...but hopes President Abu-Taleb will push 22 stories (a guess on my part). Look the real estate taxes do not decline with this growth, our taxes will likely go up. The citizens are "taxed to the max" and enough is enough. Developers: no subsidies...zoning rules are solid...follow them or go to another town. We offer a great Village, but developers do not own the Village...the people are the "owners".

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: December 22nd, 2018 4:17 PM

Q@ Jeffrey Smith: How dare you insult Suckers. The term you heard was used was Taxsuckerville. Lets get this stuff straight.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: December 22nd, 2018 4:02 PM

I have to correct my earlier comment on that Foley-Rice building after looking deeper into the back story on it. The owners had a buyer for it many years ago for $4 million, but the town would not let them sell, calling it historic. So they had to wait for a decade, paying property taxes, and then take a one million dollar haircut on the sale of their property. Talk about getting screwed. $4 million a decade ago would be worth how much now? And someone was ready to develop the lot a decade ago without the taxpayers paying millions.

Jeffrey Smith  

Posted: December 21st, 2018 5:21 PM

I heard a rumor that in big money real estate developer world, Oak Park's code name is Suckerville. But it's just a rumor, I'm sure.

Ryan Mahaney  

Posted: December 20th, 2018 9:27 AM

Let's unpack this one gang; and please bear with me because there's a lot here.... We've got a "mayor" that was granted clemency (from of all people Blagojevich) for tax evasion and other sticky finger/corruption issues, pay millions of dollars for historic vacated buildings to be torn down, add yet another grocery store in between Sugar Beet (steps away) and Jewel (three blocks the other way), get an increase in property taxes, another 8 story retirement home across the street from Oak Park Arms- a Senior Living home- and three blocks away from the elderly care Belmont Home?! As an Oak Park resident in the vicinity of this new project- it is disgusting and appalling the lack of transparency the "mayor" and the trustees have shown during this entire process. Their lack of consideration from the local community on OUR voices is shameful. But hey- at least this way the "mayor" gets more foot traffic for his restaurant, Maya Del Sol, right? Wouldn't be surprised if the trustees that voted for this one to get some "discounted" meals there for pushing this one through!

Chris Hanson  

Posted: December 19th, 2018 4:18 PM

So the proposal is to kick out tax generating businesses on one side of the street to be replaced by another business, tear down a vacant, historically significant building to replace it with a new grocery store that will then leave a vacant grocery store building blocks away on Lake St, possibly also driving Jewel out a few blocks away leading to another vacancy, and replace a parking lot with...a larger parking lot. All for only $12MM (likely more)? Who is the dealmaker here and how are they employed in economic development!?! My unsolicited advice: Adaptive reuse the facade of the Foley-Rice building on the north side of the street. If you have to, put the grocery store in there. You could even build up on top of Foley Rice (with the right structural improvements) to include penthouses with rooftop patios. Still close Euclid and, from the Foley-Rice building west to OPA, make it a parking garage for customers and tenants, with ground floor retail facing Madison and condos/apts/senior housing above it. Use the Nitti architectural drawing; those were the most inspiring of all applicants. Leave the south side of Madison alone as there are tax generating tenants in the building already. Pay for remediation if you have to but charge something for all of that land. Believe me, given the right density, a developer could make the numbers work without a $12MM and growing handout.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: December 19th, 2018 3:59 PM

The Village paid $3 million for the Foley Rice Building? Must be nice to sell an obsolete, vacant building and get top dollar. It wasn't like other offers were rolling in any where near that amount, right? The owner must be incredibly happy to get the deal of a life time. Glad the Village didn't decide to pay $4 million, since they seem to be making it up as they go along on this project.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: December 18th, 2018 10:31 PM

Doris. I doubt a municipality or anyone for that matter, can prevent a developer or anyone for that matter their due process of challenging the assessed value of their property. Just my 2 cents, I'm not a lawyer. By the way, love your radio show. Always local and relevant!!!

Doris Davenport  

Posted: December 18th, 2018 4:15 PM

Wondering... Can a municipality legally prohibit a developer from appealing their taxes? Will this hold up in court if the developer decides in a few years that the agreement is cost prohibitive?

Michael O'Malley from Oak Park  

Posted: December 18th, 2018 3:43 PM

The "mayor" speaks: the "developers?will be taking a risk." What about the current residents? What about the risks we all find ourselves in with the increased expenses and tax burden? What about the homeowners who took the risk in buying a home in a quiet neighborhood that the board is now going to turn into throughways? What about the long term risks the whole village will find itself in when property values drop and tax revenues fall? This build it at any cost mentality is going to seriously hurt our village.

Joel A. Schoenmeyer  

Posted: December 18th, 2018 3:08 PM

I'm curious -- who is advising the village to purchase properties with obvious environmental issues, and who is negotiating the purchase price and other deal terms for those properties on the village's behalf?

Waldhorn Fafner  

Posted: December 18th, 2018 3:01 PM

Did the village ever get back the TIF money Foley Rice got to upgrade their building? After that was done a car dealership was supposed to operate there for 10 years. Dealership closed after 2 or 3 years. Per Neal, my taxes are way more than less than 1%.

Amanda Poppenk Massie from Oak park  

Posted: December 18th, 2018 2:39 PM

I'm with you Neal. Thank you Simone for voting "No" on this giveaway.

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: December 17th, 2018 4:21 PM

Where do I go to pay less than 1% of the value of my house on real estate taxes?

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