Co-op food store eyes long-vacant site in downtown Lombard
A cooperatively-owned grocery store wants to open a brick-and-mortar location on property in downtown Lombard that's been vacant for more than a decade.
But the proposal likely will have to compete against other redevelopment ideas for the village-owned site.
Lombard has released a request for proposals that invites developers to submit plans to purchase and redevelop the former DuPage Theatre site along South Main Street, immediately south of Parkside Avenue.
This week, Prairie Food Co-op announced it will submit a proposal for the property in partnership with a local development firm. It hopes to be the anchor retail store of a multilevel, mixed-use development.
"We love this location for its unique history, accessibility, proximity to the downtown corridor, and its ability to deliver on our mission to create a local, sustainable and connected food community," the Lombard-based food co-op wrote in an email.
Jerry Nash, a co-founder of Prairie Food Co-op, said professional market studies confirm the site would be ideal for the full-service grocery store that would feature locally produced food. He said the northern part of the village hasn't had a grocery store for years.
"North Lombard needs a grocery store," Nash said.
Village trustees have said they would like a grocery store to be built on the 2.19-acre site, which has a commuter parking lot sandwiched between two fields.
However, no one responded last year when Lombard sought proposals for a grocery store for the site. The new request for proposals, which was released Feb. 1, is more open-ended.
"Anyone who is interested in acquiring and developing the property could submit a proposal," said William Heniff, Lombard's director of community development. "We're not directly dictating the land use."
So the village could end up getting proposals for a range of ideas -- including retail, office and residential uses -- before the April 16 deadline.
After the deadline, Heniff said, village officials will review the proposals and make a recommendation to the village board.
"At that time, we will look for board direction and authorization to enter into specific negotiations with a developer," Heniff said.
Under its proposal, Prairie Food Co-op would occupy about 12,000 square feet on the ground floor of a mixed-use development.
Organizers have been working to bring the co-op to Lombard since 2012. So far, more than 750 owner-investors have purchased shares of the business, which gives them a lifetime membership and entitles them to perks and discounts once the physical store is open.
Lombard has owned the theater property since it was donated to the village in 1999. The theater that once stood on the site was demolished in May 2007.
Nothing happened with the property after the theater was razed because of the economic downturn.
Still, officials say the site has potential because it's along Main Street and is centrally located with proximity to other retail businesses, offices and the Metra station. "I think that will draw interest in the property," Heniff said.