The eagerly awaited Uncle Joe's Tuscan Fresh Market, the grocery store expected to anchor the long-vacant Dominick's in downtown Rolling Meadows, is behind schedule.
The store's owner won't give a new timetable, but he says progress is being made.
Originally it was hoped construction on the Kirchoff Road store would start in May for an October opening, but city officials can't issue building permits until they see the plans.
"Things are just taking longer than we anticipated," owner Louis Ruffolo said Tuesday. "We are still going forward. We are finishing up the plans."
He attributed the delays to the fact that this is his first venture.
Ruffolo said he does not want to name any dates for filing plans or opening the store because "I got burned when I set them the first time."
He also said the grocery store is "my deal" at this time, without Caputo family involvement.
Nat Caputo, of the family known for its fresh produce stores, was originally identified as a consultant on the Uncle Joe's project.
Ruffolo said almost from the beginning that there was no legal affiliation between Uncle Joe's and the Caputo grocery companies, but an invitation to a February neighborhood meeting called the store "an adaptation of the Caputo's family of grocery stores."
In fact, Mayor Tom Rooney said Tuesday that Ruffolo's long involvement with the Caputo family gives him continued confidence in the project.
Rooney, who recently bought a house that needs considerable work, said he can sympathize with anyone whose construction project gets behind schedule.
The mayor's announcement of the new grocery store was the highlight of his February State of the City talk to the Rolling Meadows Chamber of Commerce.
Dominick's left the shopping center almost a decade ago, and it has been all but vacant for much of that time.
Rooney has called the center with 133,000 square feet of gross leasable space the city's "armpit," and the city has struggled for years with attempts to get the property redeveloped, including hiring consultants to study its best use and at one point rezoning part of it for housing.
City officials cheered when Clark Street Development bought the shopping center a year ago out of foreclosure, seeing this as a first step toward revival.
The development will receive an estimated $4.5 million between city and county tax breaks and contributions, including the sales taxes the grocery store will keep.
Uncle Joe's will get 50 percent of the total sales tax it generates, up to $200,000 a year and a total of $1.8 million.
In February Ruffolo told area neighbors the store would be a full-service grocery with high-quality produce a major draw.