Suburban leaders ask Albertsons to work with them to fill vacant Dominick's
Leaders from nearly a dozen suburbs gathered Thursday in Naperville to express their concerns with leases on former Dominick's locations that have been sitting vacant for nearly three years.
The mayors and village presidents of Bartlett, Buffalo Grove, Glen Ellyn, Fox Lake, Naperville, Oswego, Palatine, Palos Heights, Romeoville, Schaumburg and Woodridge gathered for a news conference in which they called upon Albertsons, the parent company of Jewel-Osco, to do more to fill the spaces.
"The damaging effects of keeping these spaces vacant is very difficult for a lot of these communities," Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico said. "We need to do a better job working together and putting the community first, and right now the communities are not being put first. We're asking for their help. We need to see some participation."
Albertsons merged with Safeway, the parent company of Dominick's, more than a year ago and took over many of the former Dominick's stores after the chain shut down in December 2013. Jewel has opened in shuttered Dominick's stores in Bensenville, Fox River Grove, Lake Zurich and many other towns, and companies such as Whole Foods and Mariano's have renovated additional locations.
However, leases on 15 vacant Dominick's continue to be paid for by Albertsons. On Thursday, municipal officials said they want the practice of extending those leases to cease.
"When you're leasing a space that doesn't have a tenant and you're renewing that lease for five years purposely so you can control whatever goes in there, that's where we're having an issue," Bartlett Village President Kevin Wallace said.
Romeoville Mayor John Noak said there is interest in the vacant spaces and willingness from suburban leaders to work with Albertsons to get them filled, but the company is not cooperating.
"So many of our residents do not realize that leases are being paid on these sites," he said. "They assume they are vacant because there is a lack of interest, but in reality they're empty on purpose."
Chirico said representatives from Albertsons were invited to meet with officials on Thursday, but they declined. Instead, they sent him a letter that said marketing is ongoing for the 15 remaining spaces.
The letter -- signed by Steve Cogan, senior vice president of real estate and store development for Albertsons -- said more than 80 percent of the former Dominick's locations have been re-tenanted or returned to the landlord, and more than half of those now occupied spaces are operating as grocery stores.
"Frankly, we are pleased with our progress over the last year at finding solutions to the vacancies and still have more work to do," Cogan said. "We are cautiously optimistic about filling the remaining spaces."
Cogan said the Albertsons real estate team wants to avoid any business failures in the remaining 15 locations and continues to pursue long-term tenants that can operate a thriving business.
"That process includes working proactively with brokers, municipalities and landlords to identify tenants who may be interested in one or more of the vacancies," he said. "We are also working with a new brokerage team to inject new ideas and energy into the effort."