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Evanston Plaza has new owner

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The troubled Evanston Plaza shopping center reportedly has been acquired by Bonnie Investment Group of Chicago.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, says Bonnie Investment paid $8.1 million this week for the property, at Dempster Street and Dodge Avenue, which is anchored by a Dominick's supermarket.

The seller, Bank of America, had paid $12.35 million for the center at a court-ordered foreclosure auction last May.

The bank had filed a $105 million foreclosure suit last year against the center's previous owner, Joseph Freed & Associates LLC, over the Evanston property and another shopping center Freed owned in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood.

During the foreclosure process, the plaza was managed by a court-appointed receiver, Foresite Realty

At last week's Joint Board of Review meeting, city officials indicated they'd had preliminary talks with potential purchasers of the property about strategies that could be used to spur its redevelopment.

The plaza was excluded from the West Evanston tax increment financing district, established in 2005, because, at the time, the shopping center had been doing fairly well.

The city has a sales tax rebate agreement with the plaza, but Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons says that for the past three years the stores at the plaza have failed to generate enough sales to trigger the rebate provision.

Retailers at the center have complained for years about the high vacancy rates and what they have claimed were excessive common area maintenance charges imposed by Freed under their lease agreements.

Efforts to reach Bonnie Investment officials for comment this morning have been unsuccessful so far.

Above: A workman makes repairs to an Evanston Plaza sign (file photo).

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