Aldi getting closer with plans for historic building in Oak Park

Chain grocer still eyeing E.E. Roberts auto dealership

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Show/Hide Gallery

By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

Plans to transform a long-vacant historic auto dealership on Madison Street into an Aldi grocery store may be moving forward.

For months, the Batavia-based retailer has been sizing up the golden brick building at 644 Madison St., which has sat empty since Foley-Rice Cadillac closed several years ago. It was built in the 1920s, designed by noted architect E.E. Roberts, and is often referred to as the "Packard building," after it served as a dealership for that long-defunct luxury car brand.

Aldi wants to preserve the façade of the historic building in a similar fashion to what Walgreens did a few blocks west. Preservationists have expressed concerns that early plans preserved too little of the property and its ornate details. Leaders in the business community, meanwhile, warmed more quickly to the idea.

The grocer presented revised plans to the Oak Park Historic Preservation Commission last month that preserved more of the façade. The chain seemed willing to keep the property's appearance as "open" as possible, according to Chris Morris, head of the commission.

She acknowledged that the property is tough to save in its entirety, as much of the inside is taken up by ramps for moving cars around.

"The preference is always that you preserve as much of a building as possible, but we understand that trying to put a grocery store into what was a historic auto showroom is a difficult proposition, given that they've got certain space requirements," Morris said.

For years, Oak Park has angled to designate the Packard building as a local historic landmark, which would mean that any exterior demolition of the structure would first need to be reviewed by the historic preservation commission.

But at the request of the property owners, the village has delayed making the designation, to make it easier for them to sell the property. As such, Aldi would be able to go forward with its plan "by right," with no binding review from the commission or village board.

Since Oak Park started designating local landmarks in 1994, no property has ever been landmarked against a property owner's wishes, according to Doug Kaarre, urban planner for the village. The Packard building was placed on the Landmark Illinois' Chicagoland Watch List in 2007.

Morris and Kaarre said they don't believe that the village will push for landmark designation against the owner's wishes.

"I've been very happy with the way (Aldi) responded to the suggestions we've offered to them," Morris said.

Right now, Kaarre said Oak Park is just waiting for Aldi to submit its formal plans. An Aldi spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.


Love the Journal?

Become our partner in independent community journalism

Thanks for turning to Wednesday Journal and We love our thousands of digital-only readers. Now though we're asking you to partner up in paying for our reporters and photographers who report this news. It had to happen, right?

On the plus side, we're giving you a simple way, and a better reason, to join in. We're now a non-profit -- Growing Community Media -- so your donation is tax deductible. And signing up for a monthly donation, or making a one-time donation, is fast and easy.

No threats from us. The news will be here. No paywalls or article countdowns. We're counting on an exquisite mix of civic enlightenment and mild shaming. Sort of like public radio.

Claim your bragging rights. Become a digital member.

Donate Now

Reader Comments

20 Comments - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy

not from here from Sarasota  

Posted: April 12th, 2012 2:08 PM

Yikes- Sol W. did not write that, some one stole his name for this.


Posted: April 10th, 2012 8:00 AM

So, Sol, how did you end up here on Aldi one of your new found missions? are you now a defender of European corporate entities run by trusts who hire "experts" to run their companies? To your question of redemption, yes. forgiveness,however, is not for me to give; you will have to seek that from your victims.

Judge Sol Wachtler from New York City  

Posted: April 9th, 2012 10:18 PM

Yes, Yikes. I was, in fact, a stalker; I was convicted, paid my debt to the victim and society, and acknowledged and sought treatment for my severe mental illness. Since my release, I have been a tireless advocate for the mentally ill and have received awards from the Mental Health Association of the State of New York and New York City. While I enjoy life, a day doesn't pass that I don't regret my actions. The great thing about America is redemption and forgiveness. Right??


Posted: April 9th, 2012 6:22 PM

wait, are you the same Sol Wachtler who is a stalker and just got your law license back? "former chief judge of New York's highest court who fell from grace after pleading guilty to stalking his former lover" enjoy your life, now that your out of jail.

Judge Sol Wachtler from New York  

Posted: April 9th, 2012 5:55 PM

To paraphrase myself, any ham sandwich can file a lawsuit. The losing party should pay all fees in this country. And anyone with "manager" in their title should assume they're exempt from overtime. That's why they're better paid than the line workers. As Shakespeare wrote, "first, we kill all the lawyers".

Yikes, agian  

Posted: April 9th, 2012 4:49 PM

Theodore and Rosie Brown have filed a negligence lawsuit against an Aldi food store in Chicago as well as Frontera Produce, Ltd, Jensen Farms, Inc., and Primuslabs after Theodore allegedly contracted listeria from tainted cantaloupe.


Posted: April 9th, 2012 4:47 PM

More than 200 Aldi store managers in 32 states have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. division of the German discount grocer, saying they were wrongly classified as exempt from overtime and should have been paid for working more than 40 hours a week.

Food Desert  

Posted: April 9th, 2012 2:12 PM

Aldi does not take credit cards or checks but does take food stamps...perfect for the OP/RF crowd, oh and don't forget to bring your own bags. Aldi adapts a "no-frills" approach to grocery shopping, cutting all unnecessary costs--including the cost of processing checks and credit cards. What ALDI does accept are cash, food stamps/EBT cards, and PIN-based debit cards%u2014the lowest-cost forms of payment for us%u2014and the fastest ones for you.

Food Desert  

Posted: April 5th, 2012 4:31 PM

@info, subtly is not lost on you, is it? my point is you can find any old thing online to try an make your point. but you go ahead and eat the discount meat at aldi, I won't.


Posted: April 5th, 2012 4:13 PM

Breeds of chicken dot com? LoL I cant stop laughing. At least mine was ABC News.

Food Desert  

Posted: April 5th, 2012 2:31 PM

@info, check this one out:Workers inside nation's chicken factories say supermarket giants Coles and Aldi are reselling fraudulently labelled week-old chicken and that unsold tray packs are re-purposed for kebab meat or marinade.

Food Desert  

Posted: April 5th, 2012 2:12 PM

@lynn, trust me, I know that trader joe's and aldi are the same thing, both equally as bad as the other. I have been in both stores trader joe's, when aldi was in Oak Park. really terrible food. @ Info i don't really care about a puff news piece, but thanks for trying.


Posted: April 5th, 2012 1:53 PM

Aldis does its homework in terms of vendors. Not only do they do quality checks weekly, they require the highest standards of any vendors out there. If the vendors dont produce quality, Aldi's will find a new one that does. Kudos to Aldis! There was a piece on Nightline about this.


Posted: April 5th, 2012 1:49 PM

Wonder if Food Desert shops at Trader Joes? If so, then you shop at Aldi. They are the same company and carry the same products (only with different labels)

Food Desert  

Posted: April 5th, 2012 1:24 PM

Oh my, please don't buy meat there, and especially "meat special buy". I feel sick just reading and responding to that. Do you go to a discount doctor after eating discount meat?

Eilene McCullagh Heckman from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: April 5th, 2012 12:39 PM

I'm offended. I do most of my shopping at Aldis... and obviously "food desert" hasn't been in one lately. Produce deals are seasonal, but the staples are cheaper and just as good as what you can find at the Jewel. Today's Aldi is not the Aldi of the 1980's... you can find organic soymilk, lowfat yogurt, brown basmati rice... all for a reasonable price. I'm especially fond of the weekly "meat special buy" which has included some beautiful cuts of beef and pork. Don't hate on Aldi... unless you've actually shopped there.

22" Rims  

Posted: April 4th, 2012 6:29 PM

Cant wait.

John from Oak Park  

Posted: April 4th, 2012 3:15 PM

Batavia is the US headquarters. Aldi is part of a German company that also owns Trader Joe's.


Posted: April 4th, 2012 1:46 PM

Aldi has its headquarters in Germany, not "Batavia-based."

Food Desert  

Posted: April 4th, 2012 7:51 AM

Add another feather in the cap of Dennis Marani, he brings us another garbage food dispensary! Wig Shops, Nail Salons beauty supply and really horrific food shops...hey but now you will be able to ride your bike to those stores. I can just see a lady, getting her nails done, brand new weave(brother's you know to not touch the hair,right?) and going shopping on her Schwinn.

Facebook Connect

Answer Book 2019

To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2019 Answer Book, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.

MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad

Classified Ad