Hoffman Estates on Sears' possible collapse: 'Village has survived tougher challenges'

Uncertainty over the fate of Sears Holdings found no resolution Tuesday, but Hoffman Estates officials emphasized there's no call to worry about the finances of the Northwest suburb where the longtime retail giant is headquartered.

"The village is fine and we're really more concerned about the employees who work there," Mayor Bill McLeod said.

Sears Chairman Eddie Lampert received another chance to save the 126-year-old company from liquidation as long as his hedge fund deposits $120 million by Wednesday afternoon in its bid to escape from bankruptcy.

An auction has been set for Jan. 14 to compare Lampert's bid with that of others more interested in liquidating Sears.

Whatever direction Sears' destiny takes, it will always be an important part of Hoffman Estates' history, McLeod said. Construction of its corporate headquarters in the early 1990s jump-started development of the village's western edge, he said.

Since then, it's attracted many other businesses to the area, including some leasing space on the Sears campus, McLeod said. He saw little danger of the buildings becoming vacant and ultimately razed, as was the fate of the former Allstate office campus in neighboring South Barrington.

"The campus is beautiful," McLeod said of the Sears site. "The buildings are beautiful."

The Sears campus occupies only about 200 acres of the nearly 800-acre economic development area the company spearheaded. The fate of that entire area will have more financial impact on Hoffman Estates than will the fate of the Sears campus alone, officials said.

"The village has survived tougher challenges, including the Great Recession," Village Manager Jim Norris said. "Sears has been a wonderful corporate citizen. We're hopeful that Sears will rise in form from the bankruptcy."

Indianapolis-based Simon Properties, which operates more than 200 retail centers across the nation, still had Sears stores at 29 of them at the end of September, including at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg.

But Les Morris, director of corporate public relations, said it was too soon to guess the impact of Sears' bankruptcy on Simon's shopping centers.

"It's so fluid," Morris said, just after learning of Lampert's eleventh-hour reprieve. "I don't want to speculate."

But customers at the Sears store in Woodfield Mall had strong opinions about the retailer's uncertain future.

While browsing through the store's luggage section, Tomislav Todosijevic of Des Plaines said it would be a shame if Sears ceased to exist after so many years.

Shoppers were scarce among somewhat sparse racks of inventory with signs advertising sales up to 70 percent off for clothes and shoes.

Amber Kellmer of McHenry, who browsed for sales with her boyfriend, said she was disappointed at prices and selection.

"I used to be a fan ... but a lot of their stuff is going out of style and other stores have cheaper alternatives," she said.

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