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Article updated: 2/20/2013 8:44 AM

Can grocery store revive Rolling Meadows center?

By Deborah Donovan

With an Uncle Joe's Tuscan Fresh Market grocery store now in the fold, the redeveloped shopping center on Kirchoff Road in downtown Rolling Meadows can expect to draw beauty parlors, dry cleaners, restaurants and other smaller retail stores, the site's developer said Tuesday.

Mayor Tom Rooney broke the news Monday that the grocery store with ties to the Caputos, an extended family with grocery stores and other food businesses across the suburbs, would go into the center that has been a thorn in the city's side since Dominick's closed there almost nine years ago.

Site developer Fritz Duda of Clark Street Development said more information about the grocery store and renderings of its design will be available at a neighborhood meeting planned for Thursday, Feb. 28 at the Rolling Meadows Public Library.

"We're super pleased and super excited," Duda said. "It's the right user in the right location. That site will be neighborhood commercial as opposed to big box stores. It's always been local businessmen running businesses, and it will continue to be." Residents seem happy that a big chain will not move into the center, which will be renamed Meadows Marketplace, Duda added.

No leases have been signed yet for the center, but that is expected to begin happening now that the Uncle Joe's has been announced, he said.

A representative of Uncle Joe's was not available to comment Tuesday.

Duda said Clark Street's plans are "perfectly consistent" with a report the city commissioned a few years ago which indicated that once an anchor is found, the center would attract smaller stores such as home decor, clothing shops, restaurants and bars. Clark Street principals have worked with Mike Mallon of Wheaton, one of the authors of the study.

Clark Street believes the location is viable for a grocery store, even with a Jewel just across the street. The company worked with a consultant to identify sites where grocery stores would succeed before acquiring the Rolling Meadows center through foreclosure.

One unique thing about Chicago's grocer market is the "20 independent grocers like Caputos who have been around for a very long time," Duda said. "The market is changing in favor of uniqueness."

He noted that Jewel and Dominick's survived together on Kirchoff Road for a long time, and he has been told that Dominick's leaving had nothing to do with the location.

The success of the grocery store and the mall depend on the dollars available in the area and the amount of competition, said Neil Z. Stern, a retail consultant.

Grocery stores are valued as anchors because the average customer visits one 70 times a year, drawing traffic to other tenants. But no developer would woo one unless he thought the store would succeed, said Stern, a senior partner with McMillanDoolittle in Chicago.

"There's no incentive for a developer to put something in that he's not convinced will succeed," he said.

And Stern agreed Jewel is not as strong a competitor as it was a number of years ago.

Super Value, Inc. sold Jewel-Osco to an investor group, with the sale scheduled to close next month. A spokesman for the buyers said personnel and operations will be examined.

"We understand it's a very competitive industry," said Karen May, a spokeswoman for Jewel-Osco, "but right now for Jewel-Osco it's business as usual and we will continue to do everything on our end to serve our customers no matter what happens with the vacant property across the street."

Although Rolling Meadows expects an economic boost from the new grocery store and other possible additions to what is now an eyesore in the middle of town, Stern warned that retail development is not a panacea.

"If you're trying to grow retail in your town, you might be taking away from another town, as opposed to getting people to spend more money," he said. "They are not getting the easy growth of 20 to 30 years ago when population and the suburbs were growing. Retail is very selective. It's tougher to get quality retail today. It will get tougher because the economy still isn't recovered and online is taking a lot of the future growth."

The Meadows Marketplace also will accommodate shops with 2,000 to 30,000 square feet.

"Great retailers can survive if they understand their customers," said Duda.

Clark Street plans to take its requests for returning the site's zoning to commercial and reducing the number of parking spaces required to the Rolling Meadows plan commission on March 5 and the city council on March 26. Part of the land was rezoned in 2006 to residential in anticipation of a redevelopment plan that never materialized.

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