Deal to bring grocery store, Raising Cane's to Arlington Heights shopping center gets OK
Arlington Heights village board members unanimously agreed Monday to give nearly $1.4 million in tax increment financing dollars to a shopping center owner, who has promised to bring a new fast food restaurant and still-undisclosed grocery store to town.
Eight trustees and the mayor signed off on a 22-page redevelopment agreement with Town & Country Shopping Center owner Visconsi Cos., which says it requested the public funds to revive the brick-and-mortar retail site that's struggled with vacancies and lower rents in recent years, only exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In agreeing to the deal, both the developer and village officials said during a virtual meeting Monday night that grocery-anchored shopping centers tend to perform better than retail centers with no grocers because of the daily foot traffic they provide. The big-box site near Arlington Heights and Palatine roads was the longtime home of a Dominick's and, for a short time, a Joe Caputo & Sons but has remained vacant since 2015.
Still, officials with Visconsi, the Pepper Pike, Ohio-based commercial real estate operator, declined to reveal the name of the prospective grocer with whom they've inked a lease for the vacant 50,000-square-foot mall space, per the terms of a nondisclosure agreement.
"I think it's a benefit to the community. It's a benefit to the shopping center," said Dominic Visconsi Jr., the company's co-chief executive officer. "We're bringing in a new retailer that's not in the area. It benefits the community by adding competition in the grocery sector. It keeps the center viable. I think that's a very important addition to the shopping center."
Under the deal, the village will provide $1,399,000 to partially reimburse the shopping center operator's $2.4 million worth of renovation costs. That includes upgrades to the building in preparation for the new grocer, and site improvements for the new 3,736-square-foot outlot restaurant and drive-through at 225 E. Palatine Road. The eatery was announced in July 2019 as Raising Cane's, a quick-service chain featuring chicken fingers and crinkle-cut fries.
The tenants will pick up the remaining $12.1 million in project costs, officials said.
Renovations at the grocery store space include a roof repair and replacement, interior demolition, facade work, asbestos and environmental abatement, and interior buildout. Plans call for work crews to extend utilities to the new restaurant and improve access to the site.
The shopping center owners and officials from the village's community development department fielded questions from village trustees about terms of the deal, which was the result of more than a year of discussions.
"I think what you guys are doing right now is important to the viability of the shopping center, but we can't be a willing participant every time that the shopping center is bringing in a new tenant," Trustee John Scaletta said. "I think that these circumstances are a little bit unique. But there's nine of us, and if we don't ask you questions, we wouldn't be doing our jobs because we are the stewards of taxpayer dollars. And that's what's the most important is making sure that whatever money we put forward is in good faith and is going to be used wisely and isn't seen as a government handout."
The village set up the TIF district that includes the shopping center in 2005, whereby property taxes above a certain point began to be diverted to a special fund for economic development efforts, instead of local governments like schools, parks and the library.
Construction on the grocery store and restaurant is set to begin by October 2021, with openings by June 2022, the agreement says.