Left to right: First Ward Alderman Judy Fiske, Seventh Ward Alderman Jane Grover, Kevin Gazley, Third Ward Alderman Melissa Wynne, Scott Gendell, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and City Clerk Rodney Greene at the ground-breaking for Trader Joe’s on Chicago Avenue. Mr. Gazley and Mr. Gendell are principals of Terraco, the developer of the property.Photo by Mary Mumbrue

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A ceremonial act that was closer to shovel-breaking than ground-braking took place in the bitter wind-chill of Jan. 31 in the now-vacant lot in the 1200 block of Chicago Avenue that as soon as this fall could be a Trader Joe’s grocery store. Long coveted by many in Evanston, Trader Joe’s is a specialty retail food store, with many organic or natural products. ALDI, the parent company of Trader Joe’s, owns a discount food store on Oakton Street.

After the groundbreaking, developers, City officials and others gathered for hot chocolate and speeches in a now-vacant building purchased by the City.

A Trader Joe’s in Evanston is the “product of three Ps,” said Scott Gendell of Terraco, the developer of the property: “perseverance, people and the power of purple [Northwestern University].”

He thanked Alderman Melissa Wynne, in whose Third Ward the property lies, the Chicago/Dempster Merchants Association, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz and other City officials and Northwestern officials in general.

With the developers’ purchase of a parcel of University property, the purchase by the City of the disused building and other land connections, Terraco was able to patch together enough pieces of land to make the Trader Joe’s concept work in that spot.

The proximity of a Jewel Food store and Whole Foods Market made the site more rather than less appealing for Trader Joe’s, officials said previously.

“This is really Trader Johanna’s, not Trader Joe’s,” quipped Ald. Wynne in acknowledging the complex transactions Johanna Nyden of the City’s Department of Economic and Community Development shepherded through the City’s requirements.

“The development of this site into a new Trader Joe’s is yet another sign that Evanston’s economic health is definitely on the upswing,” said Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl. “Trader Joe’s will be a good asset to the economy, not only for the added commerce it will generate, but also for the jobs it will create and the visitors it will attract to our community that is already known for its excellent restaurants, shops and entertainment venues.”

Mayor Tisdahl added, “I get stopped on the street by people saying, ‘Thank you for getting Trader Joe’s to come to town. It’s a question of ‘What took you so long?’”

Mr.  Gendell said he felt the Trader Joe’s could spur additional development along Chicago Avenue and Dempster Street. He said he anticipates a fall opening for the market.

G.A. Johnson Construction will build the store and the parking lot.  The company has been in business since 1874, although not in Evanston for all that time, said Jack Johnson, president.

“I am thrilled that Trader Joe’s has signed a lease and is scheduled to come to Evanston this year. I’m looking forward to working with Terraco, the property developer, to make this a flagship development for Trader Joe’s and our neighborhood. Chicago Avenue is a key corridor for the Third Ward and Evanston, and the arrival of Trader Joe’s will mark an important step in the continuing improvement of Chicago Avenue,” said Ald. Wynne.
“I know everyone has their grocery lists ready.”

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...