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Kmart exit signals new challenge for Montgomery : Editorials : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Kmart exit signals new challenge for Montgomery

Hard to imagine now, but there was a time that Douglas Road between U.S. Route 34 and Montgomery Road was a two lane rural road. The only businesses on the road were a McDonald's at the corner of U.S. Route 30 and a Burger King at Montgomery Road. That was back in the late 1970s and both Montgomery and Oswego were actively seeking to lure retail stores to the vacant properties along the road in an effort to boost their municipal sales tax revenues. Enter into that mix Kmart. For a time the two villages sought to lure the discount retailer to sites along the road in their respective communities. Oswego officials had hopes of luring the store to the southeast corner of Route 30 and Douglas Road, while Montgomery officials pitched properties along Douglas Road north of Route 30. Montgomery eventually won out and a Kmart store opened in the new Settlers Landing shopping center at the northeast corner of Route 30 and Douglas Road in 1984.

Flash forward three decades and much has changed since the two village's actively sought that Kmart store. Oswego-which had no grocery stores or shopping centers in 1984-has become a regional shopping destination due primarily to its location on Route 34, while Montgomery has seen significant retail development in recent years on both its far east and west sides. For Kmart, however, those heady days of growth and expansion the company experienced in the 1960s and 1970s has long since ended and its corporate parent company has been in a store closing mode for the past several years. The news last week the firm would close the Montgomery Kmart was not a complete surprise to village officials. Though they always hoped the store would remain open, village officials often privately expressed concern over the local Kmart's future given the chain's struggles against newer discount competitors like Target and Wal-Mart.

The local Kmart story that began back in the late 1970s with the two competing villages will now end in March when the store closes for business, as we reported last week. The store's closing will mean the loss of 81 jobs, leave a large vacant retail space in Settlers Landing and reduce the village's sales tax revenues. On the plus side, the village should make up for at least a portion of those lost revenues when the new Sam's Club store opens about 1.5 miles east along on Route 30 this spring.

The difficult task ahead for the owners of Settlers Landing and, to a lesser extent, the village and the Montgomery Economic Development Corporation, will be to find a new tenant or group of tenants to locate in the soon-to-be vacant Kmart space. Unfortunately for Montgomery, the center of retail development in the region over the past dozen years or so has shifted south to the Route 34 corridor in Oswego. But contractors for the state are expected to complete the widening of Route 30 to five lanes through the Douglas Road intersection later this year. More motorists will likely use the improved Route 30 when construction is finished, making retail locations along or near the highway like Settlers Landing more attractive to prospective tenants.

While it will ultimately be up to the owners of Settlers Landing to find a new tenant or tenants for Kmart's space, village officials can do their part in the meantime by making sure the Douglas Road commercial corridor is well maintained. Village officials should continue to strictly enforce building codes on all properties in the Douglas Road corridor and carefully scrutinize all proposals for new retail stores and restaurants in the area, especially those that come with requests for liquor licenses.

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