The North Riverside Plaza shopping center parking lot at the corner of Harlem Avenue and Cermak Road will undergo a complete overhaul this summer. Meanwhile, one of the strip mall’s anchors, the home electronics giant, Best Buy, will undergo an extreme makeover beginning in May.
According to Alan Saposnik, owner of Tower Real Estate, which manages the shopping center for the mall’s owner, Federal Construction Inc., construction to expand Best Buy should begin in late May.
In order to accommodate the expansion, Best Buy will demolish six storefronts to the north of the current Best Buy space, but not including, Fashion Bug. Among the businesses that will be leaving the center due to the expansion are a bedding store, a dollar store, a payday loan firm, a cigarette outlet, a nail salon and a financial services firm.
Saposnik said that a couple of the firms being displaced have leases that won’t be renewed when they lapse in May. Buyouts have been negotiated for the other stores still under lease.
The storefronts will be demolished and the new addition to Best Buy will conform to the height of the current store.
The expansion will allow Best Buy not only to claim more space for its sales floor, but will also allow the store to move its entrance from the south side of the property to the east side, facing Harlem Avenue.
Saposnik said that along with the Best Buy expansion, the facades for Hancock Fabrics, Michael’s Arts and Crafts, Famous Footwear and Fashion Bug will also be improved.
“They will be more modern; it will bring them into the 21st century,” Saposnik said.
A message seeking comment from a spokesperson at the Best Buy corporate office in Minneapolis was not returned.
North Riverside Village Administrator Guy Belmonte said that it was his understanding that Best Buy would not close during construction and that the project should be wrapped up by Oct. 10, prior to the holiday shopping season.
Best Buy originally approached the Village of North Riverside about the prospect of expansion last summer. With the retailer’s lease expiring in 2008, Best Buy approached the village about expanding the store and signing a long-term lease. However, it also wanted an investment from the village to help cement the deal.
As a result, the Village of North Riverside has pledged $500,000 to Best Buy to help pay for the expansion. That offer has resulted in Best Buy, which Belmonte estimated as one of the top five sales-tax generators in the village, signing a lease that runs until 2018.
“Looking at it from an economic standpoint, they are going to build out the store to their prototype, which will definitely constitute more sales,” Belmonte said. “With the increase in sales, we’ll make back that $500,000 [in increased sales tax receipts] in three years. After that, it’s all additional revenue as far as the village is concerned.”
The village is looking at issuing short-term debt to fund its $500,000 payment to Best Buy. The village entered into a similar deal with Joe Rizza Ford, just across Cermak Road from the shopping center, when that car dealership sought to expand its showroom a few years ago.
Parking lot overhaul
Beginning in June or July, while Best Buy is in the midst of its expansion, Federal Construction Inc. will begin a complete overhaul of the shopping center’s parking lot.
“Part of the plan is to redo the parking lot by adding islands and focusing the traffic flow,” said Saposnik. “That lot’s been paved and repaved over the past 20 years, and we’re going to strip the entire lot. It’s pretty drastic. We’re talking about scheduling with all the stores.”
Saposnik added that the lot will likely be divided into a dozen or more sections that crews can work on in sequence. Light poles will also be relocated during the project.
Work will be done during daylight hours, so there may be some inconvenience to shoppers looking for parking spots and navigating through the shopping center, which also includes Jewel/Osco, Kohl’s, Burlington Coat Factory and Petco.
“Our expectation is that we’re talking $1 million to $1.5 million in total expenditures for the parking lot and facade improvements,” Saposnik said.