The owners of Valli Produce, the Arlington Heights-based grocer negotiating to lease the shuttered Dominick’s store in the Evanston Plaza, reportedly now have a contract to purchase the entire shopping center.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz will ask aldermen at tonight’s City Council meeting to approve a resolution that would let the city provide up to $2 million in tax increment financing district support — originally authorized for the center’s current owner, Bonnie Management, to the prospective new owners instead.

Valli’s ownership team, Bobkiewicz tells aldermen in a memo, has formed a new entity called Azzurri of Evanston Inc. to acquire the shopping center on the southwest corner of the interesection of Dempster Street and Dodge Avenue.

(The name Azzurri, apparently chosen by the Italian-immigrant owners of Valli because it’s the name of several Italian national sports teams, refers to the blue, or azure, color of the team uniforms.)

The TIF aid would be limited to use for tenant improvements, site improvements and canopy repair that would have to be completed by the end of 2019 and would be subject to further City Council approval, once a specific plan for the work has been developed.

A tax increment financing district for the shopping center was approved by the City Council in May 2012. And the $2 million aid agreement with Bonnie was reached the following month.

Bonnie had acquired the property in late 2011 from a bank that had foreclosed on the previous owner.

Bonnie has had limited success in filling the many vacancies at the center in the 32 months it has owned the property.

Valli Produce has five stores, in Arlington Heights, Glendale Heights, Hoffman Estates, Loves Park and Rockford.

On its website, Valli says it emphasizes a wide array of imported grocery items and a broad selection of produce designed to cater to “the wide spectrum of ethnic groups in the Chicago area.”

It reportedly plans to expand the 58,000 square foot Dominick’s store to a total of 70,000 square feet by taking over adjoining vacant space in the plaza.

Safeway’s lease on the Dominick’s supermarket site still has several more years to run and Bobkiewicz says Valli is still in talks with the national chain to close the deal to take over the lease.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Sounds good…

    This sounds good. Does the TIF money used to improve the property basically goes to the new property owners? In other words, can they monetize the $2Million in improvements at any point or does the city get those funds returned?

  2. Valli at Evanston Plaza
    What simply GREAT news. From leasing one store to possibly taking over ownership of the entire plaza, means they’re Dreaming Big to bring life back into a long too long dormant corner of Evanston. Our family here 59 years, this brings Joy and Smiles. THANK YOU, VALLI. WELCOME TO EVANSTON.

  3. Looks like the shopping center TIF hasn’t worked

    Before Bonnie Investment purchased the shopping center another developer owned it and foreclosed.

    Then Bonnie Investment purchased it at a low cost and the same year Evanston aldermen turned the shopping center into a TIF. It couldn't get any better for Bonnie Investment but what have they done in two years? Not much.

    So they want to sell it again and I'm sure, make a profit? What's the use of the TIF? And did the TIF actually make Bonnie Investment money in this sale by increasing the shopping center's value? 

    My income and property taxes keep rising and it's maddening to watch how our local and state government wastes money.

  4. The site needs more than a grocery store . .

    This site needs more than just a grocery store, the property's current configuration is functionally obsolete. The City should have challenged Bonnie Management to redevelop the entire site in exchange for TIF dollarrs.  I hope Wally will consider this as a part of any financial commiment to the new potential buyer, less we find ourselves reading the same article with a different buyer 24-months frm now.

    1. So what do you have in mind?

      Don – What are you thinking about? What is it that you have in mind? A major tear-down and reconfiguration of site footprints? 

      For starters, if the grocery store will drop the restrictions on tenants that Dominick's used to have, that might make possible a wider range of interested tenants. I think the issue was the amount of parking that would be taken up by a business's clientele.

      I believe the adjacent neighborhood association and the alderman have been very involved with identifying their wish list for what might go in there. I'd be interested in hearing what might have been discussed. That will likely be our grocery of choice if the store turns out as well as the marketing about it.

      1. “Its the stores stupid”

        To talk about re-construction, layouts, etc. is again missing the point—as the city Council and planners constantly do.

        It has been years but I'm pretty sure there use to be an appliance deal [Fedders] and a Famous Footware in the shopping center.  I'm sure there were other stores there that I don't recall.  I did go there ten(?) years ago because the Yellow Pages said there was a men's clothing store there but if it was it was long gone. Of course Fedders went out of business but Famous Footware is aliive [last I checked] and was later on Davis by Sherman and I think the plaza at Main and McCorrmick. 

        The problem is keeping businesses in Evanston not plazza layouts.

    2. Sure, If we could just

      Sure, If we could just rebuild the entire thing in a slightly different layout, then all the problems would be solved and tenants would flock to open stores here!  Lets spend millions more in tax dollars on that, and and then when that fails, let's come up with yet another reason why it is failing and spend millions in tax dollars more on that….

      If you look on Google earth and you will find dozens (maybe hundreds) of similar shaped shopping plazas all over the metro area.  They are mostly doing fine and the layout has almost nothing to do with it. The reality is that this was never a good location for a suburban style retail complex and tweaking the layout will just be throwing good money after bad.

      If we are going to continue to pour tax dollars into this, why not change it back to industrial?  Those jobs pay far better and do not contribute to continued poverty like part-time minumum wage ones in retail do.  Barring that, I wish the new grocery store owners luck and success. 

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