A grocery store is finally on its way to Elgin's northwest side, which has been called a "food desert" because of residents' low access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
The Elgin City Council approved 7-1 on Wednesday an economic incentive agreement that paved the way for a Butera Market to be established at 20 Tyler Creek Plaza. Councilman John Prigge was the lone dissenter, while Councilwoman Carol Rauschenberger abstained from voting.
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Under the agreement, the city will rebate to Butera half the sales and alcohol tax revenues generated by the store for 10 years, for an amount not to exceed $500,000. The city also will waive building permit fees, amounting to about $15,000, and fast-track the project.
Butera owners said they are planning to make a $4 million investment to buy and renovate the property.
The northwest side is a food desert, Councilman Terry Gavin said. "I don't like the term, but it's a fact," he said.
The agreement stands only if Butera also continues to simultaneously operate its current location at Clock Tower Plaza, Gavin pointed out.
"This is not giving money away for nothing," he said. "You have to do something first, and you have to provide service for an area that desperately needs it."
The new Butera location is expected to create the equivalent of 54 full-time jobs. Paul Butera Jr. said the company, headquartered in Elgin, expects to hire primarily from the local community.
After incentives, the new grocery store is estimated to generate $2.14 million in direct and indirect business tax revenues to the city of Elgin over 10 years, according to an analysis conducted by Incentis Group LLC. Butera is reimbursing the city for the analysis.
Councilwoman Tish Powell said this will help residents of the Valley Creek subdivision. The future Butera location last held Eagle Fresh Market in 2003.
"I'm constantly amazed at the number of those folks, as well as others in other parts of Elgin, who go outside of our borders to buy something as simple as groceries."
Prigge said he would have been "more willing" to give Butera a tax rebate of $250,000. "I am not convinced that the public will support this at that place," he said.
In the last three or so years, the city got about four inquiries from real estate agents or developers representing grocery stores, and all passed up the Tyler Creek site, Assistant City Manager Rick Kozal said.
Mayor David Kaptain said he thinks the new Butera will positively affect nearby business and will attract shoppers from outside Elgin. "This is a very, very worthwhile project for the city to invest in," Kaptain said.
Rauschenberger said she abstained from voting because of her involvement in efforts to establish a new food cooperative store in Elgin.
Butera's owners also said they plan to build another new store that might open in May or June at 880 Summit St., pending city approval of site plans.