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).

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. New Owners Will Not Save This Eyesore

    Unfortunately, the Dempster/Dodge plaza's problems are deeper than problematic owners.

    Council made an idiotic decision in the 90s when they agreed to allow a strip mall be erected on the property.  The parcel should have been re-integrated into the grid and developed in a mixed-use fashion as Central St./Downtown/ Dempster/Chicago, or Main/Chicago.

    I know that it is unreasonable in this climate, but I was hoping that a forward-thinking developer would buy the parcel with this type of  vision. 

    Instead we have a conventional strip mall developer whose existing properties are emblematic of cookie-cuttter suburbia.

    It is about time that the city start demanding the same type of pedestrian-friendly, integrated development that works so nicely in our successful business districts in West Evanston.  Unfortunately, the neighborhood is neglected and the city is content for it to be the city's ugly stepchild.

    1. Maybe we should stop putting

      Maybe we should stop putting Evanston on such a pedestal. A  successful strip mall with some user friendly shops and restaurants would bring some tax breaks.

      I look at the bustling cookie cutter strip malls off Skokie Blvd. and am sickened when I think of how many of our tax dollars go to Skokie and Northbrook.

      Now let's hope the new owner can pull in few nationally known stores….a Nordstrom Rack, Trader Joe's (wishful, I know), a decent kids clothing store, DSW and a few family restaurants to keep Panino's and the dance studio company!

      1. No pedestal–just sensible development

        "Putting Evanston on a pedestal"??

        Not sure what that means.

        All the comment says is  that we should have the same criteria for community development on Dempster/Dodge that we do in the other districts mentioned.   You don't have to have cookie cutter strip malls to attract the businesses you mentioned–take a look at the new Trader Joe's store on Diversey, for instance.

        The best thing the city could do would be to DISTINGUISH itself from Skokie rather than emulate it.  If you make a walkable, human-scaled environment like we have on Central St. or Main/Chicago, ALL of the property around them becomes more desirable.

        If you continue to support junky design at the Dempster/Dodge intersection, you do zero to improve the quality of life in the neighborhoods immediately adjacent. 


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