Aldi, Ross Dress For Less planned anchors for 6 Corners project
by BRIAN NADIG
Aldi and Ross Dress For Less are the planned anchors for a proposed 100,000-square-foot retail center at the southeast corner of Milwaukee Avenue and Irving Park Road, where the former Bank of America building will soon be demolished.
The announcement of the anchors was met with mixed reaction at a nearly 2 ½-hour community meeting which Alderman John Arena (45th) hosted on Feb. 17. The two stores would take up 48 percent of the retail space at the one-story center, which would include public plazas and a 265-space rooftop parking deck.
Some residents said that the discount nature of Aldi and Ross may not be the best fit for the community. Concerns were expressed that Aldi grocery stores do not accept credit cards and that Ross, which sells clothes, shoes and housewares, would be too similar to Marshalls, which is located at 4612 W. Irving Park Road.
Others said that newer Aldi stores are very inviting and offer a good variety of items. One resident said that she shops at both Aldi and Ross in Niles and welcomes having them near her home.
Arena said that Aldi and Ross would help fill a shortage of retail in the area and that while “there is a perception problem with Aldi’s,” his office received phone calls from upset residents when Aldi pulled out of another development proposal at Six Corners.
It is estimated that area residents annually spend about $6 million on groceries and $14 million on clothes at stores outside of Six Corners, Arena said. “That means we’re going somewhere else,” he said. “We have plenty of money here that our community spends in other neighborhoods.”
Arena said that having retailers like Ross and Marshall across from each other would benefit both stores and would generate more foot traffic for the area because shoppers would walk across the street if the first store lacked the item they wanted. “This type of dynamic we haven’t had at Six Corners like forever,” he said.
Some residents asked if the more upscale Trader Joe’s, which was founded by a member of the Aldi family, was an option for the retail center, but project officials said that Trader Joe’s has very few expansion plans for the United States, where no more than about 30 new stores are planned for this year.
Project officials said that Aldi’s newer stores offer a large selection of organic foods and that national retailers are increasingly tailoring their inventory to meet the demands of individual neighborhoods. Arena said that Aldi and Trader Joe’s have some of the same suppliers and that the only difference for those items at each store is “a different box.”
Project developer Peter Eisenberg of Clark Street Real Estate said that both Aldi and Ross fit the retail trend of offering “good quality products at value pricing” and that national retailers have become very sophisticated in how they calculate whether a neighborhood is a good fit for one of their stores.
“Their credit is strong, and we expect them to be here for a while,” Eisenberg said of Aldi and Ross. No tenants have been signed for the smaller retail spaces at the center, but the planned anchors would help draw a good mix of businesses to those storefronts, he said.
Six Corners Association executive director Kelli Wefenstette asked residents to let the association know what type of retailers they would like in the area. She said that there are several retail opportunities at Six Corners in addition to the Clark Street project.
Arena said that the success of Clark Street’s proposal would help draw the attention of other prospective retailers to the area, where about 70,000 motorists travel each day through the intersection of Milwaukee Avenue, Cicero Avenue and Irving Park Road. “We have to prove to the market that Six Corners is viable,” he said.
Some residents argued that the revitalization of Six Corners would require a larger customer base and expressed concern that Clark Street’s project would not include a residential component, as recommended in the Six Corners master plan.
Eisenberg said that at the encouragement of Arena, a retail-residential project was considered for the site but that ultimately a decision was made on designing a center which would attract larger retailers by catering to their needs, including easy access to loading docks. He said that mixed-use should not be ruled out for other projects in the area and that his company is looking at acquiring additional properties at Six Corners.
Plans call for the center, which is named “The Point at Six Corners,” to meet the “pedestrian street” zoning restrictions which are in place for Six Corners. The building would be situated along the sidewalk on Milwaukee and Irving Park, with the only vehicular access to the parking deck located on Kilpatrick Avenue, which runs along the east side of the parcel.
Project architect Michael Fitzgerald said that the center would feature several pedestrian enhancements, including a covered mid-block pedestrian crossing between Milwaukee and Irving Park on the rooftop, which would be accessible by stairs or an elevator.
In addition, the front of the center would be situated about 30 feet further back from the intersection than the existing bank building to allow for a corner plaza, Fitzgerald said. Also being considered is the elimination of some on-street parking along the center to allow for additional gathering space, including seasonal “people spots” that can include artwork and decorative furniture.
Wefenstette said that the gathering spaces would encourage shoppers to spend more time in the area. “We need people to feel safe and part of the landscape,” she said.
The association has been working with Clark Street to remove some of the decorative and historical elements from then ornate lobby of the bank building before it is demolished. Some of those items are expected to be included in the center, while other items from the bank have been donated to nonprofit groups.
The center’s façade would vary in height and the type of materials used in an effort to make it more appealing, Fitzgerald said. At the recommendation of Arena, project officials are looking into the feasibility of a two-story store for the corner storefront near the Six Corners intersection.
Plans call for bike racks at the center, and space would be available for a Divvy Bike Station if that option were to be come available, project officials said.
The project is estimated to generate $750,000 in property taxes a year and an additional $700,000 in city sales tax. Construction could start this summer and take about a year to complete, Eisenberg said.
No tax increment financing subsidies are being allocated to the project, Eisenberg said.
However, about $2 million in TIF subsidies are planned for a nearby project at 4901 W. Irving Park Road, where an Aldi was once slated to open. Clark Street is not involved in that project, which will include a Binny’s Beverage Depot and a fitness center.