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updated: 7/1/2011 4:38 AM

Developer: Grocery store coming to Hubble site in Wheaton

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  • The old Hubble Middle School will most likely be a Mariano's Grocery Store, the first grocery store in or near downtown since Jewel left in February 2008.

      The old Hubble Middle School will most likely be a Mariano's Grocery Store, the first grocery store in or near downtown since Jewel left in February 2008.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer


The effort to sell the old Hubble Middle School site ended Thursday when Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 revealed the terms of a recently announced sale to Chicago-based Bradford Equities LLC.

At a special meeting, school officials said they were thrilled to move on and look forward to seeing a grocery store at the highly visible northwest corner of Roosevelt and Naperville roads.

A Bradford spokesman said a "conservative timeline" places a grand opening of a Mariano's Fresh Market grocery store at the site during the spring of 2013.

The sale also prohibits the developer from seeking or accepting tax increment finance help from the city, gives Bradford seven months to inspect the property and obtain permits, and most importantly to some people, asks Bradford to make a "good-faith effort" to work with the park district on 13 acres not suitable for development because they are on a flood plain.

Bradford spokesman Chad Jones, a Wheaton resident, said the company plans to try to sell the flood plain portion to the park district.

The deal includes an earnest money payment of $200,000 and a sale price of $5,000,200, just above the school district's minimum price tag of $5 million.

After a short closed session to finalize the deal, board members emerged and were all smiles as they prepared to end the more than decade-long sale process of the 22-acre site.

"I am very, very pleased we are here and I firmly intend to celebrate this evening," said board member Barb Intihar, as she praised the school district staff for completing the sale.

On Tuesday, the school board announced that it had reached a deal with Bradford after considering it along with a handful of other offers. Board member Andy Johnson said Thursday that you had to go back to the late 1990s to hear the first mention of wanting to do something new with the site. Years of committee meetings and a new school opening later, the school board decided to sell the property in December.

After a failed sealed-bid auction was followed by no bids in a public live auction, the school district solicited offers with the contingency that offers meet the $5 million asking price.

Bradford had originally submitted a joint offer for the property with Wheaton Park District for $2 million, a move that would have been possible only because of the intergovernmental agreement mechanism. But Jones said the company chose to make an independent bid because it wanted to be more certain that a grocery store would be the end result.

"It seemed like the park district was going to have a lot of restrictions on how they would move forward," he said. "Everybody wants a grocery store over there."

Jones said when the company demolishes the old school, the three gymnasiums on the building's north end will be preserved. Additionally, he said he expects an eight- to 12-month permitting process followed by about nine months of construction.

He said the company has been in discussions with the city and that he expects a smooth permitting process.

Board President Rosemary Swanson said the resolution meets several goals the school district has had all along, including placing the site on the city and school district's tax rolls.

The arrival of Mariano's will mean the first large grocery store in or near downtown since the Jewel-Osco moved from its downtown site in February 2008.

"I did not realize how much I would miss that Jewel until it left," she said. "I'm happy for that particular grocer even more so because it fits in well with the character of our community."

Swanson praised the city council and mayor for consistently backing the school district's efforts to get the site on the tax rolls. Additionally, she thanked the park district for being persistent in insisting that the green space remain available for public use.