Bonnie Investment Group LLC, a Chicago company, has purchased Evanston Plaza, located at Dempster Street and Dodge Ave. Joseph Freed & Co., the previous owner of the long-troubled shopping center, went into bankruptcy, and the property was sold to Bank of America at a foreclosure sale. Foresite Management, which manages foreclosed properties, has managed the plaza for the past several months.
Scott Inbinder, one of the principals at Bonnie Investment, told the RoundTable his company “typically purchases value-added-type assets, assets that we believe can be made better with a little bit of TLC and our retail expertise. … . Evanston Plaza represents an urban, dense market with a great deal of opportunity, in our opinion.”
Mr. Inbinder also said the plaza is “quite similar to several of our other properties in terms of size, type of tenant and general look and feel.”
Mr. Inbinder said Bonnie Investment would like to keep as many of the current tenants as possible. As for new tenants, he said his company does not yet have a “specific idea” about prospective new tenants but would like to attract businesses that would be “optimal co-tenants for Dominick’s – fashion tenants, soft goods, gyms would all be on the list.” He said Bonnie Investment will be “hands-on and aggressive” in reaching out to retailers.
“We are prepared to renovate or rehab, if necessary, in order to bring new life to the shopping center and generate new leasing interest,” Mr. Inbinder said. He added that representatives of Bonnie Investment have had “some preliminary discussions” with City officials and with Second Ward Alderman Peter Braithwaite.
Ald. Braithwaite told the RoundTable he is “extremely excited and delighted about the purchase of Evanston Plaza. … Bonnie comes with a lot of expertise.”
Ald. Braithwaite said he did not know what tenants might come to the plaza. “We can put out requests to different businesses, but it [comes down to] what the market is willing to bear. “I had a preliminary meeting with Scott [Inbinder] and [other] representatives of Bonnie and City staff to see what previous agreements were.”
The City had a sales-tax-revenue-sharing agreement with the Freed company, to help offset costs of remediation when Freed purchased the shopping plaza nearly a decade ago.
A neighborhood impact fund, which last year the City said had been depleted a few years ago, was also part of the City’s agreement with Freed. Under that agreement, a certain amount of money was set aside for improvements within the neighborhood, to offset any negative impact (such as increased lighting, noise and traffic congestions) the shopping plaza may have had there.
Ald. Braithwaite added that representatives of Bonnie Investment will meet with members of the City Council, local businesses and the West Village Business Association. He also plans to invite them to a Second Ward meeting.
City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said, “I am happy that the Center has been sold to a group that understands shopping centers of this size and location. The City of Evanston looks forward to working with the new owners and challenging them to create a retail destination that builds on past successes and creates new shopping opportunities for our residents in an ever changing retail business sector.”
“This is true economic development,” Ald. Braithwaite said, adding he believes the new owners will employ local residents. “I’m going to fight to make sure this area of town gets its share of economic development,” he said.
Bank of America reportedly paid about $12 million for the plaza. Mr. Inbinder declined to disclose the purchase price but said Bonnie Investment “did purchase this property from a consortium of banks of which Bank of America was one.”