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Plans for a specialty grocery store at the former Osco site at Oakton Street and Asbury Avenue have evaporated again. osco-090924IMG_7475.jpg Signs that had touted the impending arrival of the new market were removed from the Osco building’s windows recently. Evanston Economic Development Planner Morris Robinson says that the latest developers of the site, Jim Stivers and Dean Theo, have failed to move forward with commitments they made to the city last winter to expand and refurbish the store. In return for those commitments, the city had agreed that if the store opened, it would rebate 75 percent of city sales tax revenue generated from the property, up to a total of $1 million. Robinson says the developers failed to secure financing for the work on the site that was estimated to cost just over $3 million and was to have been completed by now.

Plans for a specialty grocery store at the former Osco site at Oakton Street and Asbury Avenue have evaporated again. Signs that had touted the impending arrival of the new market were removed from the Osco building’s windows recently. Evanston Economic Development Planner Morris Robinson says that the latest developers of the site, Jim Stivers and Dean Theo, have failed to move forward with commitments they made to the city last winter to expand and refurbish the store. In return for those commitments, the city had agreed that if the store opened, it would rebate 75 percent of city sales tax revenue generated from the property, up to a total of $1 million. Robinson says the developers failed to secure financing for the work on the site that was estimated to cost just over $3 million and was to have been completed by now. “They just didn’t move off the dime,” Robinson said, so the city now has terminated its agreement with them. “We’re back to square one,” he added, “looking for another specialty grocer who’d be interested in the space. The property is owned by private parties, but is under a long-term lease to the CVS drug store chain, which acquired the free-standing Osco Stores in 2006. CVS shuttered the building because it had its own outlet just a half-mile south at Asbury and Howard Street. After neighbors said they’d like to see a specialty grocer there, city officials initially tried to lure the Trader Joe’s chain to the site. After Trader Joe’s rejected the location, talks with a variety of green grocers followed, culminating in an agreement last fall with a firm headed by Nick Merikas to establish an upscale grocery there. Merikas was able to sublease the property from CVS, but ran into financial difficulties and brought in Stivers and Theo to carry the project forward. The 11-year sublease reportedly required no rent payments for the first year, but that rent-free period ran out June 28. The listing agent for CVS, Kyle Mayberry of Zifkin Realty & Development, declined comment for this story. Alderman Ann Rainey, whose 8th Ward includes the Osco site, said the Stivers and Theo apparently have run into similar difficulties with a grocery store project in Libertyville. “The community and the council got so excited there, too,” Rainey said, only to end up disappointed. Rainey said the city is not out any money as a result of the failure of the deal, because it would only have made the tax rebate payments to the developers if the store had opened. Tracing history of the Osco site

City asked to chip in more for market (1/29/09)

Panel backs tax break for market (9/25/08)

Tax rebate proposed for new market (8/7/08)

Neighbors cheer plans for new market (7/9/08)

Green grocer plan wilts (10/18/07)

Green grocer eyes Osco site (8/29/07)

Trader Joe’s rejects Osco site (10/7/06)

Osco closing; neighbors hope for Trader Joe’s (6/27/06)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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19 Comments

  1. one’s enough
    Because they were supposedly putting one up in the downtown district. Not sure if that is still happening.

  2. Trader Joe’s Letter Writing Campaign
    Now that it is official that the Fresh Foods Market will not be opening at Evanston’s Oakton and Asbury location I am urging Evanston residents to start a letter writing campaign to urge Trader Joe’s to finally come to Evanston. Whether at this location or another everyone I know wants them here and yet they refuse to come for some reason. A Trader Joe’s would not only keep Evanston resident’s shopping dollars in town but would also bring in customers from Rogers Park, Skokie and Wilmette. You can send a request to Trader Joe’s for an Evanston location at their website http://www.traderjoes.com by clicking on “Contact Us” and then following the prompts. Perhaps if they hear from 100’s of us all at once they will listen!

  3. Does it HAVE to be a Grocery Store?
    Living on Oakton Street, I find myself surprised that the city keeps pushing for a grocery store on this site. In conversations with many of my neighbors, we have discussed the possibility of a restaurant, coffee shop, book store and various other options. Further, why can’t the space be chopped up and several businesses housed there? The idea that we need another grocery store in this neighborhood is patently ridiculous. We already have a Jewel, Dominick’s, Sam’s Club and Food 4 Less within blocks of each other. Target also offers groceries and the impending (ugh!) Aldi which is in the process of being built will be yet another alternative (please support your SW Evanston neighbors who fought against Aldi and don’t shop there folks). It would be lovely to have a small cafe that we could WALK to in the neighborhood. I’d love to meet some of my neighbors from other blocks!

    1. No, it doesn’t have to be a grocery store.
      Aldi which is in the process of being built will be yet another alternative (please support your SW Evanston neighbors who fought against Aldi and don’t shop there folks). It would be lovely to have a small cafe that we could WALK to in the neighborhood. I’d love to meet some of my neighbors from other blocks!

      Yes, Aldi is a nasty place, but not everyone can afford to shop at Whole Foods. Are you suggesting that inexpensive food stores should not be allowed? Or should they just be kept out of sight?

      I agree on the need for something better than a grocery. My personal preference would be that they replace the decrepit IHOP on Howard with a brand new IHOP on Oakton. There is plentiful parking, and then I wouldn’t have to drive out to Skokie or Glenview every weekend.

    2. You’re not speaking for everyone
      Just wanted to make the point that, as a South Evanston resident, I strongly support an Aldi in Evanston, and I know many others who do as well. I shop at Aldi regularly in Chicago and in Skokie, and look forward to the sales tax on what I spend there staying in Evanston.

      One man’s ugh is another man’s bacon.

      1. Aldi’s
        @ Michele Hayes. You said a mouth full. Some people have a lot of nerve. Talking about putting a coffee shop there??? Just to gather and meet their neighbors? give me a break. People of Evanston especially are trying to have a store like Aldi’s to shop at. Especially as high as the taxes are. We need Aldi’s and a dollar store also…

    3. Define: neighborhood
      Your statement:

      “We already have a Jewel, Dominick’s, Sam’s Club and Food 4 Less within blocks of each other.”

      I need to disagree on the characterization of “blocks of each other.”

      The Sam’s Club is on Main Street at the Channel. So is Food 4 Less. That’s on the west edge of Evanston. Target — Howard at the channel so the absolute south west corner of Evanston.

      The closest Jewel is on Chicago Avenue a bit south of Dempster — pretty far east and more than a few blocks from Sam’s and Food 4 Less. The closest Dominick’s is on Howard Street near the el station — across the street from the south end of Evanston and again, more than just a few blocks from Jewel, Sam’s Club and Food 4 Less.

      That is a huge area to define as “the neighborhood.” My neighborhood (area near the corner of Oakton and Ridge, as well as the corner of Oakton and Asbury) does not have a food store within walking distance. So yes, a large population in our neighborhood wants a decent food store.

      1. who are the grocers in my neigbhborhood
        “That is a huge area to define as “the neighborhood.” My neighborhood (area near the corner of Oakton and Ridge, as well as the corner of Oakton and Asbury) does not have a food store within walking distance. So yes, a large population in our neighborhood wants a decent food store.”

        I guess that I define “neighborhood” a bit differently. I can walk to your corner from a bit west of you in 5 minutes. And I consider most of what you listed as part and parcel of my neighborhood. You, too. I guess that I include the use of my car in defining neighborhood because I usually need it to bring home my weekly purchases.

        I would add to your list that the closest Jewel is right next to the Target you mentioned on Howard . . . perhaps 5 minutes from Food for Less. And the closest Dominick’s is at the corner of Dodge and Dempster. It is newly rehabbed and repriced, and much more friendly than in the past.

        So I am counting in my neighborhood 2 Jewel stores (the one on Chicago is maybe a 7-8 minute drive), 1 Target, 1 Dominick’s, and 1 Food for Less. The latter fills my need for an Aldi-type store. And lets not forget JD Mills on Chicago near Keeney for a bit of the more wholesome. If I am really venturesome, I can get to Market Place in Skokie in 10 minutes for much more exotic fare. And significantly better vegetables and produce at a much better price.

        If y’all want an Aldi’s at the new location, so be it. But I would much rather have had a more interesting and tasty food establishment to provide for a need that our entire south side of town seems to be without. Steak and Shake doesn’t do it for me.

        1. The answer is drive, drive, drive
          Sure, any neighborhood can be defined as where you can drive in less than 15 minutes. But, for me, that’s really too broad to be considered my neighborhood.

          I’m talking about a quality food store within less than 15 minutes walking distance. For many of us in south central Evanston, all of the listed stores do not fit into that category. Many of them do not offer quality produce and virtually none of them can be reached by walking in less than 15 minutes.

          This isn’t Schaumburg. Why should we need to drive 15 minutes to find a decent market with affordable prices (which is what I do now to shop in Skokie)?

          Try going green and walking more. That’s what we need to plan for.

    4. Another thumbs up for Aldi
      I am surprised by the (snobbery and) distain for Aldi. Because they are so far away I have never shopped at one but look forward to another low cost grocery option.

      What could possibly be the motive for banding together and boycotting a new grocery store? Please fill me in.

  4. Trader Joe or D&D Food in old Kendall College
    Northeast Evanston is probably one of the most under-served areas—though SE may also since Dominicks made the stupid decision to vacate.
    Why not offer D&D Food [and DD Dog] a chance to re-locate and expand in the old Kendall lot—maybe add a drug store to it. Otherwise offer it to Trader Joe or SOMEBODY. Think of all the NU and community residents that would be served by this !
    For some odd reason D&D Food is always absent from lists of grocery stores serving the downtown to north area. It is small but high quality. [I have no connection to them but must say their salads are the best EVER—even that mothers made].

    1. D&D at Kendall
      I have previous written on the merits of commercial development at the old Kendall site. I think that D&D Finer Foods would be a good tenant there, along with my proposed IHOP and/or Costco.

      The problem is that the NIMBYs – including a certain alderman who lives near the Kendall site – have this bizarre theory of ‘zoning continuity’, which says that R1 (residential single family) neighborhoods should be adjacent to other R1 neighborhoods – and nothing else. (As I pointed out before, this would imply that all of Evanston would be a giant R1 district.)

      The result of ‘zoning continuity’, of course, is that it is impossible for people to walk anywhere. Instead of having a neighborhood market, cafe, or house of pancakes…you have to get in your car and drive from your R1 house through miles of adjacent R1 zones until you get to the area that is zoned for groceries or restaurants.

      So we have:

      NIMBYS –> Sprawl –> Less walking –> Obesity –> Health problems

      Therefore, NIMBYS are bad for your health.

      1. Kendall site
        Why not have an ACORN office there? They could help new entrants to Evanston find affordable housing or business sites in the area. I am sure there is stimulus money available. Some of the businesses could service NU students and help bridge the NU/Evanston divide.

        Tax revenue might be hard to collect.

    2. Asbury Oakton CVS
      Several years ago when we heard CVS would purchase all the stand alone Osco Drug sites, Evanston contacted TJ. There were meetings with the TJ broker and communications with the corporate people. Our traffic engineering staff reviewed the layout of the parking and did a redesigned so that the parking met their standards. The site is the ideal TJ size and the parking passed their standard number of spaces.

      South Evanston residents conducted a TJ letter writing campaign and signed up for their newsletter. We were asked to cease the campaign as they said they had received hundreds of letters and emails.

      We were led to believe that this was a site Trader Joe could agree to. One day we were told that the decision maker from, I think, Boston, flew out, looked at our site and rejected it on the spot.

      The Asbury/Oakton location has been the site of a food store for at least 60 years and included A&P, National Tea and the famous Asbury Market. Osco was the first to be otherwise. Osco agreed to offer a very large selection of food and people were pleased with that.

      A coffee shop, book store, a lovely small cafe are all great uses, but you cannot make any of them lease close to 15,000 square feet for 11 years. It is not likely that CVS is going to divide it up. Further, CVS does not own the property, but has 11 years remaining on the lease. Speaking of D&D Foods – this was one of the grocers at the top of our list. They wanted to be in South Evanston! They got to know the community from their Matt Nevada Restaurant on Asbury. BUT, as with many interested grocers, they were stretched to their financial limit.

      From my interaction with the community, I believe that a majority prefers a grocer at the CVS corner. I regret not having one after all this time. We are at the mercy of CVS, and many of us are grateful for their efforts thus far.

      FYI: The IHOP on Howard St has been completely remodeled inside and out.

      Ann Rainey

      1. IHOP on Howard St
        “FYI: The IHOP on Howard St has been completely remodeled inside and out.
        Ann Rainey”

        What? Why wasn’t this story in the local media? The Tribune, Roundtable, Daily Northwestern… even EvanstonNow… failed to cover this.

        I got in the Whomobile and drove to Howard& Asbury to enquire for myself. The exterior of the restaurant has clearly been upgraded. I wanted to go in to have some pancakes…but the place appeared to be full, and there were no parking spaces left. ( Maybe Alderman Wynne can help out here and give us more parking at the IHOP…she loves parking spaces.)

        The fact that the Howard & Asbury IHOP is running at full capacity suggests that there is sufficient demand for pancakes in Evanston for at least one more IHOP. The former Osco site, Kendall site, or Central & Eastwood are all desirable options.

        1. IHOP, KFC and Browns
          About 14 years ago there was an IHOP in downtown Wilmette that always seemed to do very good business—Original Pancake did not seem to distract from their business, the menus are sufficiently different. There had been a “Closed for Remodeling” sign—people in Evanston always know what that [really] means.
          KFC was only a couple of blocks from it and they had closed, I think, a few years earlier. That never made sense–they seemed to do good business.
          Browns on Central did good business. I did not know why they closed—-I hope it was not the superstituous attitude of those that thought the Palatine meant there were ‘ghosts’ in every Browns [Browns owners had even got threats] !
          Of course Evanston chased out McDonalds so no telling.

  5. the original Asbury Market
    The vacant Asbury Market/Osco/CVS building sits as another reminder of all the shenanigans that has gone on in Evanston far too long. The Alderman fails to mention that the closing of the original Asbury Market was because they were denied the warm beer and wine license to sell that other grocery stores in Evanston were approved for.

    The dilemma for the Asbury Market was many in the neighborhood crossed the border in to Chicago where they only had to park once to purchase their groceries and libations at Jewel. I lived across the street from the Asbury Market and the owner told me that if he did not receive the license that almost every other grocer in Evanston received, he would have to close the business.

    Being concerned that the market might close, I canvassed the neighborhood and found that everyone supported the license if it meant keeping the Asbury Market open and if the market acted responsibly. The Asbury Market was never given a chance and the residents were not part of the decision-making process as we seldom are when it comes to important business decisions made in Evanston. That sometimes happens behind closed doors. Welcome to the machine.

    I am certain the business decisions made by Trader Joes and D&D Grocery not to come to Asbury and Oakton has more to do with the reputation of Evanston and their regressive policies towards businesses (especially towards Northwestern which is a business) then traditional market forces. No matter who comes to Asbury and Oakton, you can be certain they will be selling beer and wine that is probably chilled.

    The closing of the Asbury Market was during the time the city of Evanston was engaging in illegal closed-door meetings (as determined by the Illinois Attorney General) all in an effort by our local government to take control of developments and expand the tax base. The Asbury Market was just another one of many small independent businesses in Evanston who became a casualty of the corruption.

    The number of vacant commercial properties in Evanston continues to grow leaving empty lands and buildings requiring more taxpayer financing to deal with. Enough is enough. The economic collapse of Evanston (that has just begun) is the direct result of what happens when a government uses a dubious government loophole (in our case TIFs) to get involved in private sector development. Because of the power and greed that follows, the people in charge forget they are elected to serve the people, not control them.

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