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Finding tenant for old Kmart a 'tricky situation' : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Finding tenant for old Kmart a 'tricky situation'
Montgomery official updates village board on business attraction efforts

by John Etheredge


"A tricky situation."

That was the term Richard Young, the Village of Montgomery's community development director, used to describe the prospects of locating new tenants to occupy some of the vacant retail buildings in the village, including the former Kmart store in the Settlers Landing shopping center at Douglas Road and U.S. Route 30.

Kmart closed the local store in March.

Young along with Village President Matt Brolley and Jeff Zoephel, village administrator, attended the International Council of Shopping Center's (ICSC) annual Global Retail Real Estate Convention held in Las Vegas last month.

Young presented a report on the convention to the village board Monday evening.

While at the convention, Young said he and the other village officials met with representatives for several restaurant and retail stores along with shopping center owners and developers.

Referring to the convention, Young said, "It was two days of intense meetings, but I think it was worthwhile. It's about building relationships."

Young noted that he, Brolley and Zoephel focused their efforts on trying to attract restaurants, hotels, grocery stories and "in-fill 'big box' stores" to the village.

However, he noted the current trend in retailing is toward smaller stores.

"The old Kmart store is 86,000 square feet and so a Best Buy (store) five or10 years ago probably would have taken a serious look at that, but today their model is 30,000 to 40,000 square feet," Young said, adding, "They like to have a warehouse in central, regional location and then have a retail operation that is much smaller than the previous model."

However, Young said he and the other officials did talk with representatives of a Chicago-based development firm that showed an interest in the former Kmart-Settlers Landing property.

"Frankly, we didn't know a lot about this developer prior to the meeting, so that relationship is being established now and we hope that something comes of that," Young said.

Young noted they also met with representatives of Save-A-Lot Foods, a grocery store chain with over 1,300 stores nationwide.

"One of their criteria, believe it or not, was a lower per capita income than what we have in the village of Montgomery," Young said of the chain. "Our per capita income is about $63,000 and they are looking at something more in the high $40,000 range. So it is a learning curve."

Young added that officials with Best Western hotels were very interested in the village, but "what asked us to do most of the leg work. That means finding capital investors in our region who would like to get involved with a franchise situation."

He said Dunkin Brands, owners of Dunkin Donuts, are "working out the possibilities" of a new store site in the village.

"We (also) had a meeting with McDonalds. Obviously there is not a McDonalds in the village, but we are surrounded by McDonalds in neighboring communities. They would like to be at Route 30 and Orchard Road, but unfortunately it is just a bit too close to their restaurant further down Orchard Road in Oswego," Young said.

He described Denny's representatives as being "very interested" in the former Applebee's restaurant located on Route 30 in front of the Blain's Farm & Fleet store.

"That would be a good fit for them once the work on Route 30 is completed because it's right across the street from the (Kendall 10) theater (in Oswego)," Young said.

Brolley said he made a point of talking with representatives of CVS, the national pharmacy chain.

Brolley said he told CVS representatives that there are already three Walgreens in the village and asked them, "Why not a CVS?"

Official: public, private
investment now needed

Young described the representatives they met with as being "cautiously optimistic" about the future of retail development.

Young, however, said "in today's marketplace-looking at the redevelopment of the Kmart center-it takes both public and private capital investment. It's no longer a market situation where we can look to the developers to do all the capital renovations that would be needed to do the parking lot, access drives, etc.

"So what we took away (from the convention) is that it is definitely a team approach between the municipality and the developers," he said.

"Again, most of the groups looking to find franchisees for our area are looking for the municipality or the MEDC (Montgomery Economic Development Corporation) or somebody to do the work on who those major investors would be into a franchise situation," Young said.

He said company representatives also need to understand the demographics for the village and adjoining communities.

Young described the village's retail corridors along Route 30 and Douglas Road and Route 30 and Orchard Road as "two distinct marketplaces" and said he prepared demographic information for each corridor.

Young noted that neighboring Oswego plays a factor in determining which retailers and restaurants consider sites in Montgomery.

"Most of the national chains are along Route 34 in Oswego and we've picked up some of that with Sam's Club, (JC) Penney and Menards at the intersection of Routes 30 and 34, but we are greatly influenced-at least the Douglas Road corridor is-by what happens in Oswego," Young said, adding, "To a lesser degree the Orchard Road corridor is influenced by what happens in Yorkville and Oswego, but it has a lesser affect."

Young noted all of the retailers and developers are concerned about the amount of time it would take for them to have their plans reviewed and approved by the village.

"Property owners and retailers need to know that a municipality is willing to work with them on the review, approval and permitting of development in a reasonable timeframe," he said, adding, "Nobody can afford to waste time, but they want to know what a project will take as far as time and commitment. It's not just about the capital, it's about the time as well."

Young noted the trip to the ICSC convention was just part of the village's ongoing economic development efforts. He noted that he plans to attend the ICSC's annual fall convention to be held in Chicago.

Brolley noted that developers are always concerned about the amount of time it will take for a municipality to review and approve their plans.

Referring to the village, he said, "There's where we have a lot of control over how fast we can get desirable developments through (the review process)."

Board member Pete Heinz asked Young if the village has sought out medical offices, including doctors and dentists.

Young said medical and dental offices were not represented at the ICSC convention, but remain an attraction goal for the village.

As an example, Young said he has contacted Rush Copley officials to discuss the possibility of locating an urgent care center in the village.

"And that is just one (contact)," he said, adding, "There are other medical groups."

He described dentists as "a little bit tough" to attract due to the large number of dentists already in practice in the village and surrounding communities.

"Keep working on it, Rich," Heinz told Young.

"We will," Young said.

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