The long-running search for a buyer to take over the vacant Jewel site in downtown Wheaton may be coming to an end.
Mayor Michael Gresk says a contract is pending for the sale of the former grocery store at 114 E. Willow Ave.
The prospective developer envisions tearing down the 20,000-square-foot structure and constructing a medical office building, Gresk said.
After Jewel-Osco abandoned the site in February 2008, its parent company, Supervalu Inc., placed a $4 million price tag on the property. The price was reduced in 2010 to $3.25 million.
"Wheaton, Illinois, is a flyspeck on their map," Gresk said of the long period of time the building has remained vacant. "It just didn't matter to Jewel is what it comes down to. And that's OK. They made a business decision. They stuck with it. I think it's resolving itself."
Gresk said he's had one phone conversation with the potential developer and is unaware of the possible sale price.
Ever since the former Hubble Middle School site was sold to a developer in June, interest in the nearby Jewel property has increased, Gresk said.
"The sale of Hubble opened up more possibilities for Jewel," the mayor said.
One of those possibilities was a recreation center the Wheaton Park District considered for the site. The district was awarded a $2.4 million grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to acquire the land.
Park board President Ray Morrill said Thursday the district decided not to engage in a bidding war and has asked the department to use the grant for another purpose: the Hubble site.
There, Chicago-based Bradford Equities plans to build a Mariano's Fresh Market grocery store by spring 2013.
As part of the sale from Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200, the school district included a condition that the developer would make a "good-faith" effort to work with the park district on 13 acres that lie in a flood plain.
Morrill said he's confident Bradford will give control of those acres to the district for recreational purposes.
"It's not an issue," Morrill said.
The grant could fund upgrades to those outdoor spaces.
"It means we can do that much more," Morrill said.
As for the Jewel site, Morrill said the potential deal could spur interest in other vacant properties downtown.
Jewel-Osco officials would not comment other than to say they're aware of interest in the site.
"There has been interest in the property," said Karen May, a communications manager, in an email. "However, at this time we are not at liberty to discuss that interest or the price of the property."