Sears site about to get new owner

Locals hope new owner continues redevelopment

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By Stacey Sheridan

Staff Reporter

The former Sears property on the corner of Harlem and North Avenues is about to have a new owner. John Novak, founder of Novak Construction has purchased the extensive property for an undisclosed amount from its previous owner Seritage Growth Properties, according to Alderman Chris Taliaferro (29th). 

"I'm glad that someone is purchasing the property with the intent of redeveloping it," said Taliaferro.

The sale on the 293,718-square-foot property did not go through Aug. 28 as scheduled as the city of Chicago had not issued a zero-balance stamp for the property's water meter, a requirement for real estate transactions. A zero-balance stamps ensure that the property has no outstanding water bills. Once issued, the sale can go through. Taliaferro expects the city to send someone to check the water meter in the next three to five days. 

It is not the only former Sears property in Chicago about to be sold by Seritage Growth Properties. That company, created five years ago to repurpose the real estate portfolio of the failing Sears chain, has been clobbered by the real estate recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to one report, the stock value of Seritage has declined by 75 percent in 2020.

The Chicago-based Sears property borders on three other municipalities: Elmwood Park, River Forest and Oak Park. Redevelopment of the original building is well underway with all exterior walls having been removed. 

"It looks like Seritage had financial difficulties as a result of COVID-19," said Taliaferro. "And I don't know how long that property would have sat there under their control."

Last summer, Chicago City Council approved plans for Seritage, in partnership with Tucker Development, to repurpose the main building as a five-story story mixed-use project with 161 rental units, a national grocery store chain, a health club and ground-floor retail space. The plans also included 462 parking spaces. Seritage could not be reached for comment.

It is unclear what Novak intends to do with the property once the purchase goes through. Novak has not yet responded to requests for comment. However, Taliaferro said Novak is on vacation at the moment. Taliaferro intends to speak with Novak upon his return.

"It's the specifics of the redevelopment that I'm most anxious to talk to Mr. Novak about," the alderman said.

Taliaferro hopes that Novak will develop the site into both commercial and retail space, comparable to what Seritage and Tucker Development intended to build.

"In a perfect world, I hope that they will continue the same development scheme, or one that's very similar to the same development scheme that the community supported," he said.

Taliaferro believes it unlikely that Tucker Development will continue working on the property.

"John Novak has his own development company and his own construction company, so I don't believe that they'll be looking to hire outside construction or development teams," said Taliaferro.

Once he speaks with Novak, Taliaferro intends to hold a virtual meeting to keep the community informed of any new details. 

Block Club Chicago reported Aug. 28 that Novak is in the process of purchasing the former Sears location at Six Corners -- Irving Park Road, Milwaukee Avenue and Cicero Avenue -- from Seritage as well.

Judith Alexander, chair of the North Avenue District, said it's too soon to tell what the sale of the Harlem Avenue and North Avenue Sears property means for her district. 

"We don't know much about Novak Construction," Alexander said. "They seem like a very reputable company."

Alexander said she "looks forward" to getting to know Novak and learning more about his intentions. 

"We are sorry that we probably will not be working with Tucker Development," she said. "We have very high regard for them."

Like Taliaferro, Alexander would like Novak to implement the redevelopment plans Chicago City Council approved last summer.

"Time is money in the development world, and it takes a long time to get plans developed and approved, so they may decide to just go ahead with that," she said. 

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William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: October 26th, 2020 10:09 AM

Far be it from me to defend anything in Melrose Park, but... just what does Novak Construction building the Melrose Park Costco ("Kiddy Costco"- cute) have to do with anything? Maybe a few more facts and less innuendo?

Scott Concertman from Chicago  

Posted: October 26th, 2020 12:04 AM

Here goes reckless assumptions...Ah the one that built Kiddy Costco. Well then he's certainly not worried about what community thinks that's why they've already gone back on the agreement to reutilize existing structure in the name of environmental sustainability and demolishing the shell as we speak. I can hear the excuse now, no way we can retain and build off of existing frame. It's been left open to freezing temperatures and pounding rain too long. And our construction company already employs minority workers from the suburbs, sorry residents of Austin. Inflatable rat and protest signs against hiring scabs will have to suffice. That means original agreement to protect the historic trees surrounding property connecting back to when the outdoor football stadium was there is out the window too. Oh don't worry we'll plant better trees to replace already well established ones cut down. Happy happy, joy joy you tree hugging loving public stupid enough to name surrounding communities after trees. Thankfully most everyone will be totally oblivious to fact once we expand construction footprint temporarily taking over all the public parkway's Green space then sweep all the construction debris under new rolled out sod. It will be total waste of time trying to plant new trees ever again in locations permanently incapable of supporting life in severely compacted soils left behind. Just consider yourselves lucky were throwing in a line of large landscape pots that will require intensive upkeep until weeds become established and no one will ever notice the difference. Boy won't Novak's engineers be surprised when finally rediscovering subterranean Creek once supplying locations old flooded wetland. Hmm is that why Sears basement always flooded, better install those ComEd transformer vaults above grade along with few industrial sized basement pumps. No sir you can't connect them to city sewers, supposed to flow into basements to keep streets from flooding.

Vincent Domino from Elmwood Park  

Posted: September 22nd, 2020 8:39 PM

Novak Construction is a big company I know the family He has built countless stores He built the Costco in Melrose Park There should be no problem

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