DuPage County towns join forces to fill Dominick's vacancies
Six DuPage County communities are working together to fill large retail vacancies they've been dealing with for more than a year -- the grocery stores formerly occupied by Dominick's.
Bartlett, Bensenville, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Wheaton and Woodridge are combining forces to recruit potential new grocers or other large retailers that don't already have a presence in the suburbs. The thinking behind the marketing coalition, which formed in December, is that centralizing information about several vacant Dominick's stores could help a new business make the decision to open here.
"Since communities have different regulations and processes for business openings, that can be a deterrent to a new retailer looking to enter the market," said Jason Zawila, a planner who coordinates economic development efforts for the village of Woodridge. "By combining our resources, we can conveniently offer the information needed for their market assessment."
Nine of the 31 former Dominick's that are still vacant in Chicago or the suburbs are within DuPage County. Seven are within the communities that are working together to market the sites, while the remaining two in DuPage are in Carol Stream and Glendale Heights. The stores are large -- between 61,000 square feet and 77,000 square feet. And they often anchor strip malls such as Baker Hill in Glen Ellyn, Riverbrook Center and Wheatland Marketplace in Naperville or Danada Square in Wheaton.
"The concentration of remaining stores in the DuPage County area presents a unique opportunity for a new grocer to enter the Chicago market," Zawila said.
The sites have presented at least one unique challenge to municipal economic development leaders in the time since Safeway, Dominick's parent company, announced in October 2013 that it was closing 72 Chicago-area stores. That's because Safeway is continuing to pay its leases on the stores, said Christine Jeffries, president and CEO of the Naperville Development Partnership.
Property owners of two of the three former Dominick's stores in Naperville are continuing to receive payments from Safeway, despite the stores being empty, she said. The third former Dominick's in Naperville, in Fox Run Square at 1212 S. Naper Blvd., is going to become a Mariano's Fresh Market.
"They both continue to collect rent from Safeway. That truly is one of the challenges," Jeffries said about the dormant former grocery stores. "When we drive by, what we see is a vacant building. The owner knows Safeway is continuing the obligation to pay the rent. We need to find a good new user that will sublease or transition out of the Safeway."