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The owner of Valli Produce, the grocery store that will replace Dominick’s and anchor the Evanston Plaza Mall, said the store will be “different than what this town is used to” but may open a month later than expected due to delays in the building permit process with the City.
Frank Schwab, of Schwab Realty and Development, developer of the plaza, spoke at the Feb. 12 Second Ward meeting. He shared mock ups of the proposed interior and exterior of the store, described the foods to be offered and talked in general terms about the mall.
His initial comments, however, were about the permit process. Mr. Schwab said he planned for a June store opening, but may have to extend that to July because he has yet to get a building permit from the City.
Mark Muenzer, Director of Community Development, told the Roundtable that there is “no hold up” on the permit. The store has a demolition permit now and is making progress. It is “common,” said Mr. Muenzer, for the issuing of a build out permit to take some time, especially in a large project such as this, because revisions to building plans often go through several revisions. The City needs to “make sure [the proposed plan] is compatible with the rest of the community” as far as building materials being used, landscaping, signage etc., so the process involves a lot of “back and forth.” Mr. Muenzer stressed that he has “asked [City] staff to make this a priority and they have,” adding that they are doing “everything we can” to get the permit issued in March.
The 70,000-square-foot grocery store will be “no comparison” to other grocery stores in the area, said Mr. Schwab. “We will have everything” including the “largest and freshest produce you’ve seen.” Co-owner Lou Tenuta described the many departments the store will contain. He spoke of a gelato bar, full bakery, salad and olive bar. Sushi will be prepared onsite daily. There will be a full meat and seafood department and bulk foods will be sold. There will be an “unbelievable” selection of foods from all over the world, he said.
Mr. Schwab, who purchased the entire Evanston Plaza, is addressing issues that have been of concern in the past. He and his team are working with the Evanston Police Department on the plans for the liquor department to reduce theft. Security cameras and lighting will be improved in the parking lot. Currently, there are no plans to include the police outpost that once resided in the Dominick’s store. He also spoke of “better signage and colors,” a change in landscaping and a new pylon sign to list all mall businesses.
When asked about new businesses locating in the mall, Mr. Schwab confirmed that there is indeed interest and said he is confident that “we’ll fill it.” He spoke of another mall he owned that underwent the same process and went from a 3% occupancy rate to 97% once Valli moved in. Mr. Schwab said Radio Shack was leaving because the company filed bankruptcy, but that the dry cleaners “would be replaced.” He was not able to make any specific announcements yet, however.
A job fair for Valli Produce will be held in April or May, specifics of which will be announced soon.
Residents at the meeting were given fliers from another Valli store as an example of what Evanston can expect. The prices look good, said one attendee. “This is just wonderful,” said another.