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posted: 6/4/2014 1:01 AM

Editorial: Retail shop flap an image issue for West Dundee

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

A lovely section of historic Second Street in West Dundee four years ago was given the title, "Best Block in America," by the "Good Morning America" TV show.

That neighborhood is just blocks to the east of Spring Hill Mall, the regional indoor mall shared by West Dundee and Carpentersville.

That was when West Dundee still had a Best Buy store to feed the coffers. When there was still a Target store.

Both of those retail outlets, situated just south of the mall, are now shuttered.

The Spring Hill Gateway East shopping center, situated along the road that rings the much larger regional mall, until recently was anchored by an Office Max store. Never a raging success, today the strip mall is nearly empty. Only a small Red Wing Shoes store remains open.

As dripping with Americana as West Dundee is, it has suffered some of the same type of misfortune that other towns have in the past seven years. Corporations merge and consolidate. Smaller stores come and go. The village has overhauled its budget twice -- first with the departure of Best Buy and now with Target -- to deal with a shrinking revenue base.

So with all of this retail real estate available, why would West Dundee all but refuse a potential new business? The Salvation Army this year approached the village with plans to open a resale store in the strip mall. The village demurred.

On its face, this does not appear to be a particularly neighborly response to a do-gooder organization like the Salvation Army. And it's peculiar, too, for a town sorely in need of retail tenants.

Village President Chris Nelson said Century Plaza less than a mile south on Route 31 would be a more appropriate spot for it.

"When you have used goods sales, it's a different kind of market and it's not a complementary use to a regional mall," Nelson said. "It would be poor planning to allow such a use outside of a regional mall."

A few days after the Salvation Army applied for a business license, the village established a moratorium in that area on businesses that sell used goods. A strip mall even closer to Spring Hill once housed a sizable Play It Again Sports store.

Nelson said discussion along those lines had been taking place already. The bank's financier is hopping mad, claiming the rules were changed after its good-faith plan was submitted.

What West Dundee now has on its hands is an image problem. Some folks who live in the area feel village leaders are being elitist. After all, there have long been resale shops in neighboring Carpentersville and East Dundee.

It would behoove leadership in town to better explain its vision and to put on a neighborly face, not just for West Dundee residents but for retailers looking to open up shop there.

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