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Valli Produce’s plans to establish a grocery store in Evanston Plaza, Dempster Street at Dodge Avenue, have expanded to include its purchase of the entire shopping center. Its plans were revealed at the Sept. 8 Administration and Public Works Committee meeting.
At that meeting, Valli requested a change in the Dempster/Dodge TIF Redevelopment Agreement. The change would shift the party referenced from the current owner of the shopping center, Bonnie Management, to the contract purchaser, Azzurri of Evanston, LLC. Azzurri is a holding company for Valli Produce.
Frank Greco, co-owner of Valli, said Valli “zoned in on Evanston” immediately when they heard of the Dominick’s decision to exit the Chicago area. “It really fits with what we want to do as owner-operators,” he said. It is very important to integrate operations within the community, he added. “This will be happening,” he said – Valli has signed a sublease with Safeway (Domick’s parent corporation) and a contract to purchase the shopping center.
As an example, responding to a question from Alderman Peter Braithwaite, whose Second Ward includes the shopping center, Mr. Greco said that the community would dictate the store’s hours of operation. “If the store needs to be open until 11 or 12, we can do it,” he said. Local control allows decisions to be made quickly without the necessity of far-away corporate input.
“Nobody will ever recognize that it was a Dominick’s,” said Valli’s architect and store designer. Square footage will increase from about 58,000 to roughly 69,000 with the added space coming from current tenant storefronts on the Dodge Avenue side of the main building.
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said the contrast was welcome, citing the new Jewel on Howard Street and Clark Street in Chicago and a new Mariano’s as examples of converted Dominick’s that look exactly like the stores they replaced with a different name on the façade. “It is great to make a real statement that it is a different store,” she said.
The new store’s target opening date is June 1, 2015. Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, said that is about the same time the new Whole Foods on Green Bay Road, another Dominick’s conversion, expects to open its doors.
Once open, Mr. Greco said the store expects to employ between 100 and 200 people depending largely on the part-time, full-time mix.
Valli will also make significant changes to the overall appearance of the shopping center, updating the look from the ’80s and ’90s feel to a more contemporary look. Who will occupy the rest of the shopping center remains to be seen. The property’s new leasing manager said discussions over new tenants are premature since the sale has not yet gone through.
“We are really excited about your presence,” said Ald. Braithwaite. The tweak to the TIF appears to be largely semantic, and Council introduced it without any further discussion.