New grocer seeks tax incentive to open shuttered RF Dominick's

Village enthused about Fresh Thyme proposal

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By Deborah Kadin

Contributing Reporter

Opening a new grocer on North Avenue took a giant step forward Monday when River Forest's economic development commission recommended that a county property tax exemption be granted so Fresh Thyme Farmers Market can renovate the shuttered Dominick's site.

Approval of the financial incentive, which would allow the chain to recoup up to $1 million in property taxes, is expected to be approved Monday by the River Forest village board.

A letter of intent with Mid-America Real Estate Group has been completed for the site; signing a contract is contingent on approval of the chain's request for financial assistance, Village Administrator Eric Palm said.

Pegged as the best option for redevelopment by the EDC, the Dominick's site had been closed since late last year when its parent company, Safeway, abandoned the Chicago market. Getting a suitable developer for the property was high on the list of priorities for Village President Catherine Adduci, who was ecstatic that the site could soon come online.

"It is important for the village to be proactive, and I am pleased that the Economic Development Commission agreed with our village administration to work with Fresh Thyme on ways to make the former Dominick property work for them."

Opening the store will not just mean more sales tax but it also will be a boon for commerce, said Tom Hazinski, chair of the EDC. Business owners who responded so far to the EDC's survey mentioned that the development that they'd like to see most in River Forest is the revitalization of the Dominick's site as a grocery store.

"The community would be enthusiastic about the return of a grocer," Hazinski said. "It'd be more than about the traffic, there'd be a presence on North Avenue. That would be important and good for the entire village."

But before it opens, perhaps in late 2015 or early 2016, and infuses new revenue into the village, the building will need a considerable amount of restoration. It was one of the oldest in Dominick's portfolio, and very little money had been invested into it over the last several years, Palm said.

The Fresh Thyme chain recently opened sites in Deerfield and Mount Prospect, but there, build-out costs each were $2 million lower than the investment needed for the River Forest location.

The upfront investment will be considerable -- $4 million, Palm said. A complete gut of the North Avenue building will be necessary with all new electrical, mechanical, plumbing as well as work on the onsite sewers. The building will remain with some modifications to the loading dock.

The best option for that assistance, Palm said, will come from a Class 7c incentive provided by Cook County. The 7C incentive is a five-year incentive that would reduce the property tax assessment level to 10 percent for three years, 15 percent in the fourth year and 20 percent in the fifth year. It can be renewed for a five-year term, he said. It is principally used for real estate that engages in the buying and selling of goods and services. The benefit is that no funds would be spent by the village. Rather, Palm said, the property tax assessment is ultimately reduced. Each taxing body will still receive the dollars it levies through the property taxes.

An incentive would be good as well because the site is smaller - approximately 28,000 square feet – and limits the number of interested tenants as most large grocery stores are in the 50,000 – 80,000 square-foot range. That leaves certain niche market stores such as Fresh Thyme as potential suitors.

"Fresh Thyme is a small, good neighborhood grocer with produce, deli and prepared foods. That's the trend in markets, people want fresher food now. There's one in Mount Prospect, near where I live. It's nice. This is a good match for the community," said Palm.

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OP Resident #963 from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: September 19th, 2014 9:42 PM

Any alternative to long lines at Jewel is a good thing for the community. Jewel is terrible.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: September 17th, 2014 10:56 PM

It's an interesting method, and on the county level...If the value of the property is reduced, then other properties, not just in RF, but in all of Cook County, would pick up the slack. There is a certain amount of money that the county, and each taxing body asks for (levies). Then that dollar amount is divided among all the properties, based on the assessed value of the property. So if one property is under assessed, then the other properties (tax payers) pick up the slack.

Tony P from Oak Park  

Posted: September 17th, 2014 6:26 PM

Sad but true, our little brother to the west of us appears to be smarter about their economic development and move much quicker. Yes the incentive may reduce each taxing bodies revenue, but right now zero dollars is zero dollars for all. Plus that empty store is an eyesore.

DeJordy  

Posted: September 17th, 2014 1:42 PM

This sounds like a good straightforward plan, unlike what is going on in Oak Park, where I fear Murtagh is right.

Jim'e'  

Posted: September 17th, 2014 10:10 AM

Bridgett, the Cook Co property tax classification for this site will affect all districts as the designation will lower the assessed value for the property. The app requires the municipal concurrence with final approval granted, I believe, by the Cook Co Board. Yup, until the school districts step up and contribute towards economic development it's in the hands of the municipality.

Jack Welch from Crotonville  

Posted: September 17th, 2014 9:45 AM

Not taking Murtagh's bet. Have to say that RF appears to be doing this the textbook (ie right) way from the start. We'll see...

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: September 16th, 2014 11:49 PM

Who has the authority to grant this property tax exemption? The Village board? So this would affect tax money that flows to all taxing bodies--the village, library, schools, parks, township--but the Village is the one that approves it? Or are they approving it to go to some other body, for final decision?

john murtagh from OP  

Posted: September 16th, 2014 10:22 PM

Any bookies around? Want to make a bet that the RF Dominicks open it doors before Pete's.

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