Vacant Spaces and How to Fill them in Naperville

It was a welcome message throughout town: the vacant Menards building off Ogden Avenue and Jefferson Street has a new tenant after a 15 year vacancy. Patel Brothers grocery store, a nationally known Indian grocery chain, will convert the space into a shopping plaza.

“It’s a great box to check off, you know we really have been working hard on that and you know there’s limited users, so if it’s not a grocery store there’s just not a lot of users that would need that space,” explained Mayor of Naperville, Steve Chirico.

It’s a problem seen throughout Naperville as several vacant buildings still sit empty for years due to changing times in the retail market.

“The challenge we’re having is we’re having a lot of brick and mortar retailers sort of stepping back and reducing their footprint or jumping out of the market completely,” added Christine Jeffries, President of the Naperville Development Partnership.

But there are different reasons why some businesses sit empty.

The former Dominick’s stores shut their doors back in December of 2013 and have remained that way since then. That’s thanks to Albertsons, the parent company of Jewel, who bought two properties located on Ogden Avenue and Raymond Drive and Route 59 and 95th Street and have purposefully kept them vacant to ward off competition.

And the East Ogden Corridor’s aged business district makes it difficult to breed new life.

But progress is being made. Just recently a few showings took place for the land where the old Kmart has sat empty for a few years on East Ogden Avenue.

“We had a couple showings last week and I’m hopeful that one or two of those will express some interest,” added Chirico.

And that interest may be easier to come by when the area gets a face-lift.

“What were going to roll out is East Ogden streetscape improvement using the same tools that we use in the downtown to do major streetscape enhancements,” explained Jeffries.

While Mayor Chirico says new developments will hit over the summer, he’s always welcoming others to join the City of Naperville.

“We have been very successful with this type of strategy of pitching our community as a great place to do business and it’s proven out that way so we’re going to keep going down that path,” added Chirico.

But even as the city tries to fill the empty spaces, more are on the way.

The Naperville locations of HHGregg and Gordmans are both shutting down, after both companies declared bankruptcy last month. Nebraska-based Gordmans was able to sell at least 50 of their more than 100 department stores to the company Stage Stores, but unfortunately the Naperville location was not part of that sale.

Appliance and electronic retailer HHGregg was unable to find a buyer for their business, and is subsequently liquidating its assets.

Closing dates for the businesses have not yet been released.

Naperville News 17’s Alyssa Bochenek and Kim Pirc report.

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