Valli Produce will remain in Evanston Plaza, the shopping center at Dempster Street and Dodge Avenue, even after the property is sold. Speaking at the Dec. 10 Joint Review Board meeting, City Economic Development Manager Paul Zalmezak said. “The Valli ownership has listed the property for sale. The entire shopping center is listed for sale for $39 million. And their plan is to shop it around the market to see if they can get a buyer. And then they would lease their store and continue to operate Valli Produce. They would lease [the space], and they could use the cash infusion to satisfy debts that their other properties.”

He added, “But they wanted me to stress when I talked about this publicly that they are not leaving the community.”

Azzuri of Evanston, Inc., doing business as Valli Produce, purchased the shopping center in 2014 for $16 million. The property is the sole property in a tax-increment financing (TIF) district created to enhance development of the shopping center. At that time the City gave Azzuri a $2 million loan forgivable at the rate of $200,000 per year if certain requirements are met, and $1 million project costs.

Valli is currently compliant with the agreement, Mr. Zalmezak told the RoundTable, adding, “I’ve asked the law department to review the agreement to determine what happens if the property sells but they maintain their lease of their existing space – which is what the TIF funding was applied toward.”

Members of the Joint Review Board – representatives of all taxing bodies affected by at TIF district – discussed the potential sale of the property.

Mary Rodino, Chief Financial Officer at Evanston Township High School, said, “I feel a little conflicted about the fact that Valli is trying to sell it. And I know we don’t have any control over. But one of the things I liked about the structure was that when they came in and bought it, they just seem to make some really great improvements. Aesthetically, you know, they fixed all the cracks and the driveway areas.

“I love the diversity in the plaza. … I’m so appreciative of what the valley owners did for the community. But I just really hope that that that plaza [will stay] a vital part of the neighborhood. And I really hope that this continues to go well, as I think it’s gone in the last four or five years.”

Mr. Zalmezak again referred to his conversation with the owners of Valli. “One of the owners said, ‘We are not leaving; we are going to continue to maintain a strong presence with our store and continue to do all the things that we do.’

“So I’m going to take him at his word. And I think, based on what we’ve seen today, they are such a good community partner, they’ve invested in the community. They’re just a good partner. And I, I don’t think they’re going anywhere.”

Mr. Zalmezak added that the City takes a long look at property. “The point is, if retail continues to decline in the significant way that has, in recent years, there may be an opportunity to redevelop … You [might] have a new residential development there or something [else]. … So, hopefully, this tool [the TIF] will be in place to help support it.

The City’s Dempster-Dodge tax-increment financing (TIF) district encompasses the entire shopping plaza. The TIF was established in 2012 with a base equalized assessed valuation (EAV) of $10,816,879. The reported EAV for 2019 was $12,121,567. 

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...