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The new owners of Evanston Plaza say they have no plans for a major renovation of the struggling property, or for adding housing to the site.

Scott Inbinder of Bonnie Investment Group speaking at the 2nd Ward meeting

The new owners of Evanston Plaza say they have no plans for a major renovation of the struggling property, or for adding housing to the site.

Scott Inbinder, a principal with Bonnie Investment Group, told residents at a 2nd Ward meeting Thursday night that because of “environmental issues” stemming from the one-time factory use of the property, “residential housing is something that’s not plausible.”

And Inbinder said Bonnie is unlikely to spend mony on a major renovation of the property.

“As much as we would like to renovate the entire center, we won’t get rents to cover the cost,” he said. “And a lot of potential tenants don’t want to see a center renovated — it makes the center too nice for the type of discount products they sell.”

However, Inbinder suggested that a city-created tax increment financing district could be a way to fund upgrades at the property.

Inbinder, whose firm has owned the property for just six weeks after buying it from the bank that obtained it from the prior owner at a foreclosure auction, said his company’s goal is to gradually fill the vacant stores with new tenants.

“As I walk through the center now, it’s empty — no cars in the parking lot and there’s a concern about crime,” he said. “I want to return it to where it was one day in the past — a well-leased, vibrant center.”

He suggested that changes in the retail marketplace have left shopping center owners with less leverage than they used to have in selecting tenants for their properties.

“This center has suffered a little because a lot of national tenatns like to be in more of a regional location — either Old Orchard or downtown Evanston,” he said. “They may feel that a location at Evanston Plaza overlaps with those or potentially would cannabalize sales in an existing location.”

He said that with a lot of vacant space to fill, Bonnie plans to start by trying to lease the larger spaces, because filling those will help attract tenants for the smaller ones.

And despite issues with restrictions on what new stores can be brought to the center imposed by anchor tenant Dominick’s supermarket, he urged the neighbors to shop there.

“The best thing you can do is support that store. The better Dominick’s does, the more inclined they’ll be to stay and to help us in making it easier to lease the vacant space,” Inbinder said.

“Potential new tenants will want to know how other stores in the center are doing, and since Dominick’s is the anchor tenant, that’s the first call they’ll make.”

Related story

Evanston Plaza has new owner

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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3 Comments

  1. Not surprising coming from an “Investment Group.”

    The idea of integrating housing and remaking malls into mixed-use developments is something that many owners of dead malls are doing.

    However, it is not surprising that these folks are against it.  Their track record in other communities shows that they are a conventional developer without any forward-thinking ideas

    The thing that is sad is that the city is going to push through a TIF district just for this property and will likely exact zero demands for giving the investment firm tax subsidies.

    1. What will the TIF funds be used for?

      It is unclear to me what the TIF will be used for, I asked the question to the developer, why should we give you a TIF? ( at the meeting) 

      Interesting one young city staff member claimed they were only discussing this TIF and it was not a done deal.  ( to you believe that?)

      What is interesting is what will the funds be used for?  For real improvements as some neighbors were asking for or for build out to inexpensive retail stores? 

      The city economic development , council members and Wally seem to think TIF funds are play money for them to do with what ever they want and they have no accountability to the taxpayers.

      The LIT Theater TIF use of almost 1 million dollars on Howard street is a huge waste and WILL flop!

      What new nonsense will we see?

  2. Troubled by positioning Dempster Dodge

    So the new owners of Dempster and Dodge Plaza cannot see renovating because, "it makes the center too nice for the type of discount products they sell." So Bonnie Investment Group picked up our local strip mall at a bargain basement price from the bank and doesn't plan to upgrade? Can't make it TOO NICE because the West Evanston neighborhood doesn't deserve better than second rate discounters like AJ Wriight and worse?! Just outrageous and what a turn off to this long time neigborhood resident.

    Parents with money to spend for Dance Center Evanston classes are killing their time at Starbuck's somewhere else and shopping at Old Orchard. I work north of here and often hit Trader Joe's or Garden Fresh on the way home. Cannot tell you how many of my neighbors I meet shopping in Glenview and Northbrook. Nordstrom Rack and Garden Fresh are great draws and people drive to them stopping in at Loehman's while they are up that way.   Evanston athletes must go to Wilmette to buy running shoes where they are wooed with a 10% discount all because there are no local options that nurture high school elite athletes. Prom rental season is upon us…just watch our ETHS kids migrate in droves to rent formal wear at LIncolnwoodTown Center. I even have to travel to Morton Grove to go to a Dollar Tree. Certainly, there are some decent retailers that you could attract…HOBBY LOBBY,  Half Price Books, Steinmart, Gap. Just don't sell out the West side and short sheet us with DOTS, cheap merchandise and crappy stores that nobody wants to see here.  Making it nice and attracting decent retailers will fill it with families, grandparents and help prevent the so called crime which was just a few thugs having their way. Don' t sell out this neightborhood again!

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