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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