The tale of Trader Joe’s coming to Evanston is already the stuff of legend.
When a 2008 deal to bring the store to Evanston failed, sent a member of his economic development staff to the Trader Joe’s in Northbrook with a mission.
“He said, ‘Go and give your business card to someone at Trader Joe’s, and don’t leave until someone takes it,’” third ward Alderman Melissa Wynne told residents Thursday. A few days later, city staff got a call from the vice president of real estate at Trader Joe’s.
With a Trader Joe’s now , Wynne gathered the store’s developer, architect and a Trader Joe’s representative to speak to residents at a public meeting Thursday at .
“A lot of fairy tales don’t come true,” said Scott Gendell, president of Terraco, Inc., the developer for the project. “This one has a happy ending.”
Residents had plenty of questions about parking, delivery truck noise and design, but the sentiment was mostly positive.
“It’s really wonderful to see this thriving here,” said a 45-year-Evanston resident, spurring the audience of several hundred to clap for the people who worked to bring Trader Joe’s to Evanston.
Planned for a spring 2013 opening, the store will be located at the former Blockbuster site at 1211 Chicago Avenue, which Terraco purchased for $2.3 million in August 2011. Three lots for $2 million, will serve as the store’s parking lot, and Terraco will be responsible for construction and maintenance costs as well as a one-time license fee of $25,000.
According to Wynne, the city is expected to recoup the money spent to buy the parking lot within four years, based on expected net new sales tax revenue from Trader Joe’s. That revenue is anticipated to be anywhere between $487,000 and $669,000 per year.
“Ultimately, we will own a nice parcel on Chicago Avenue,” she said. The city council is still in the process of deciding what to do with the lot when the store closes. Possible uses include overnight resident parking or parking for other businesses on the street.
Architect Michael Breclaw of OKW Architects explained that the 27-foot-tall building will have a steel side fronting Chicago Avenue, combined with a slate green panel and red brick walls. Breclaw said his firm chose steel in as way to play off the large scale of other grocery stores and car dealerships along Chicago Avenue.
“It’s a way of engaging the building to everything that’s around it,” he said.
According to Trader Joe’s regional vice president Adam Mutolo, the 13,000-square-foot store will be similar in size and layout to the one in Glenview, where many Evanston residents already shop. A loading dock and set of dumpsters will be enclosed in the back, with no access from the alley.
All vehicular traffic, including delivery trucks and dump trucks, will access the building from Chicago Avenue and leave the same way. A typical Trader Joe’s gets two to three major tractor trailer deliveries a day, the first one as early as 3 or 4 a.m., according to Mutolo.
Some residents at the meeting raised concerns about increased traffic on Chicago Avenue or the potential of accidents caused by cars entering and exiting the lot. Ald. Wynne said the city plans to study the issue and make changes if necessary.
“Remember, this site has been active until just recently,” she said. Wynne also noted that the city installed new, sequenced lighting on Chicago Avenue within the past three years, which adjusts to the flow of traffic.
“It actually does flow better than it used to,” she said.
As for bikes, Trader Joe’s plans to install racks in front of the store, but will not create a separate entrance for riders. Wynne said the store might consider a gate in the back that only pedestrians or bikers can fit through, so that people may bike to the store from the alley.
Store construction will begin in October, according to Terraco president Scott Gendell, and will continue through the winter with no impact to traffic on Chicago Avenue. The construction project is expected to employ 75 to 80 people, not including architects and engineers, he said, while the store itself will likely hire 60 employees.
Like other Trader Joe’s stores in the area, this location will donate to local food pantries, according to Mutolo. Typically, a store picks a couple of the most local organizations to help. Trader Joe’s in the area are already donating to Evanston’s Hillside Food Pantry.
While Northbrook got its Trader Joe’s 12 years ago, Gendell and Mutolo said the Evanston location is a long time coming in part because of the challenges of finding a site in a more urban area.
“Property is expensive in Evanston, so that makes your operating costs higher,” Gendell explained. This location also required the cooperation of the city, the tenant, the developer and Northwestern, since Evanston purchased one of the lots from the university.
Despite the difficulty in luring a store, city manager Bobkiewicz said it was obvious for years that—after job creation—this was a real economic priority in town. And the reaction of residents says it all.
At a city meeting, “it’s a rare occurrence to get applause,” he said.