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Evanston Plaza Owner Responds to Patch Readers’ Suggestions

Some are feasible. Others are essentially impossible.

In last week’s inaugural entry to Evanston Patch’s new “Empty in Evanston” series, on what businesses they would like to see fill .

For many, Chicago-based real estate firm Bonnie Investment Group’s sparked hope that the shopping center might soon be revitalized to the glory-days form it enjoyed two decades ago, and the wide range of readers’ enthusiastic responses painted a picture of what the .

Some of the more popular ideas included a bowling alley (49 percent of the vote), a sporting goods store (15 percent of the vote), a health club (11 percent of the vote), a sit-down restaurant (11 percent), a Trader Joe’s (mentioned 11 times in comments), national clothing retailers (Eddie Bauer, LL Bean, Old Navy, JCPenney and Target) and several types of eateries.

After tallying total votes and sorting through the comments, Patch took the results to Scott Inbinder, principal at Bonnie Investment Group, to ask him which suggestions were feasible, which were improbable and which were downright impossible.

Because , the grocery store that currently anchors the shopping center, has a lease that prohibits various types of businesses from taking root in the plaza, many of Inbinder’s answers were tentative, as Dominick’s would have to sign off to allow them to come. The list of restricted uses could shrink in the near future, though, as Inbinder said that Dominick’s had indicated that it might be willing to allow some previously-forbidden businesses to come in the interest of reviving the plaza.

Read through Inbinder’s responses below:

Bowling alley: “A bowling alley is a prohibited use under the Dominick’s lease. I’m not sure whether it’s a prohibited used under our zoning. So that doesn’t necessarily mean that we can’t do it. It means that we certainly need approval in order to do it. Secondly, I don’t have any companies that run bowling alleys knocking on my door. So it doesn’t appear that there’s a retailer that desires to be here.”

Sporting goods store: “A sporting goods store would be great.”

Health club: “We have had health club interest…I think it is a possibility. Again, there is a restriction in the Dominick’s lease. There has been some previous conversations with Dominick’s from the prior landlord, I believe, asking for prospective consent to put a health club in the center, and I think that is definitely a possibility.”

Sit-down restaurant: “Some food is prohibited under the Dominick’s lease because they find it competitive to the sale of their eat-in café area. So to the extent that they believe it would hurt sales in the café area, it may be prohibited. And I have not been approached by any sit down restaurants to go into the center. So it’s a nice use, but you have to find a retailer with the desire to be there.”

Trader Joe’s: “That’s a totally prohibited use under the Dominick’s lease. They have a grocery exclusive. We would not be able to do that, and frankly, why would we want to hurt Dominick’s sales? They’re our anchor. Dominick’s is 60,000 square feet. Trader Joe’s is only 15,000 to 20,000 [square feet].”

Large retailers: “We would certainly be very interested in a lot of these national clothing retailers. But, certainly the ones you’ve suggested, typically want to be in a more regional location, so they would look at Old Orchard [shopping mall] or downtown Evanston. Ours is more of a neighborhood use, so it’s going to be a retailer that doesn’t believe that they’re going to overlap with a store that they have in one of those other locations. Or it’s going to be a tenant that’s looking for a dense urban location, but one where they’re going to draw from a smaller trade area.”

Starbuck’s: “Starbucks is prohibited under the lease.”

Library outpost: “Presuming that’s something we can put in the center under the zoning, I would love a library.”

State office: “I have some restriction on the size of office use. But to the extent that it’s something that I can do that, I welcome it. We do have a federal VA clinic in there already.”

Current interest: “We are out soliciting the center, so we have yet to get any significant interest, but we have had health club interest, we have had interest from a number of smaller fast food type users, we’ve had interest from some office users. It takes time and patience and hopefully we’ll get it leased.”

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Charlene Bos February 17, 2012 at 06:54 PM
Meetings, discussions, polls, arguments, good ideas, incredibly stupid ones, too much time and money wasted.......and.... FRED! THANK YOU!!!!THANK YOU!!!THANK YOU!!! YOU GOT IN DOWN TO ONE SENTENCE. We have boycotted our shopping center. Not enough people shop in our own neighborhood. Those that do have gotten great stuff for great deals. They were adventurous enough to at least give those businesses attempting to succeed here a shot. If the neighbors do not shop here, why would anyone bother to make it a destination? We do not have stores in Evanston Plaza in good part because we did not frequent them. Over the years shop owners stared out the window and employees lost their jobs. When driving to Old Orchard or ordering on line, did anyone think about that? Fred out there said it best. Thank you Fred, you made me laugh.
J C February 17, 2012 at 08:05 PM
We seem to be fixated on consumer only , We are seeing the beginning of the failure of a consumer based society. Perhaps we should consider putting in some production type of business , Someone that actually makes something that they sell ?
victoria smith February 18, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Disagree Lucas, if you check out the North Chicago roller rinks like Orbit, you will see that they turn over a profit. It serves the community and not just young people, but older as well. There are still many spaces left in the shopping center to put something else, but as we all have seen, all the other businesses that have come and gone there could have done better if there had been more police survalence, which now we have. I don't think we should limit to only a couple of spaces, we should think out of the box and try and fill all of them. No restaurants though.
Charlene Bos February 18, 2012 at 04:04 PM
We do not have police surveillance. That was the misunderstanding when the Dominick's outpost was proposed. Police touch base there but do not have manpower or resources delegated that would be required to monitor a roller rink. If a bowling alley with designated lanes can pose a threat for problems, imagine a roller rink with the potential for physical contact. Everyone has a wish list for the Plaza, what they want and do not want. Bet the new owners have a wish list too. They wish the phone would ring with potential ANYTHING.
jim February 18, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Ugo or zipcar spots,. place for electric car recharging, taste of the NorthShore festival, Local car dealers display new cars occasionally, FLEA MARKET

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