North Riverside officials said last week that they should know the fate of the village’s largest sales tax-producing business as early as October.
At a meeting of the village board’s finance committee, Sept. 12, Village Administrator Guy Belmonte told the president and trustees that Edward Don officials wanted to make a decision on whether to extend their lease “within three to four weeks.”
Belmonte said there’s a deal on the table for Edward Don to extend its lease for five years. Previously, the property’s ownership sought a long-term deal with Edward Don, but the company wasn’t interested.
“This five-year extension was thrown to them two weeks ago,” Belmonte told the village board on Sept. 12. “They’ve been asking for it [and] asking for it. Actually, ownership wanted to sign them to a longer-term deal.”
Edward Don and Company is expected to act quickly to either accept or refuse the offer, according to Belmonte.
“[Edward Don COO and CFO] Jim Jones told me today that they need to make a decision within three to four weeks because they know they will lose 20 percent of their employees because about 20 percent of their employees take public transportation,” said Belmonte, who added he met with Jones in his village hall office just minutes before the Sept. 12 finance committee meeting.
“And he says, truthfully, if we moved a mile west of here that would probably take out people who take the el to Harlem Avenue and a Pace bus south.”
Edward Don and Company, a foodservice equipment and supplies distribution giant, has called 2500 Harlem Ave. in North Riverside home for four decades. However, its lease expires Dec. 31, 2012 and the company has been in negotiations with the property’s ownership since early this year.
Jones did not respond to a message left on his office voicemail or to questions emailed by the Landmark to his Edward Don email address last week.
The property is owned by a partnership involving two companies, Lincolnwood Developers and Monroe Investment Partners, who bought the property in August 2007 for $14.75 million.
A spokesman for the partnership, Jerald Much, president of Lincolnwood Developers, told the Landmark in April that Edward Don’s rent is far below market value. Leasing information found on the Internet states that the partnership is seeking to get $4.35 per square foot. Much said Edward Don’s rent is far below that figure.
The reason the company’s rent is so low is that, until 2007, the property was owned by members of the Don family who didn’t have a stake in the foodservice supply business. Much’s partnership outbid Edward Don and Company for the property when it went up for sale in 2007.
At the beginning of April, the property owners plopped down a “for lease” sign on the corner of 25th Street and Harlem Avenue and actively have been seeking potential tenants, primarily big-box retailers.
On Sept. 12, North Riverside officials confirmed that at least one of those suitors is Costco, although the company’s interest in the location appears to have waned since spring.
“Four months ago, I guess Costco was knocking down the door, but ownership has told me it’s gotten lukewarm,” said Belmonte.
Costco was interested enough in the property to have done a walkthrough of the facility a few months ago, Belmonte said. Much has reportedly told Belmonte there are still other companies interested in the site, but no further information was available about who those companies might be.
Last week, Much indicated that while there’s interest in the Edward Don property, nothing is solid at this point.
“There’s nothing definitive there,” Much said. “A couple of people have expressed interest, but it’s very preliminary. [The lease extension offer to Edward Don] is imminent. The other is not so imminent.”
The wild card appears to be whether Edward Don has a realistic deal worked out for a new location in another community. Rumors last spring tied the company to a property in Bensenville, but that deal appears to have fizzled.
More recently, said both Belmonte and Much, the company has expressed interest in a location in Woodridge. Belmonte said he believed the property was near the intersection of interstates 55 and 355.
“Right now the biggest thing they’ve got going, I believe, is in Woodridge, but I don’t know where that deal’s at,” Belmonte told the village board.
Much told the Landmark he’s also unsure where that deal stands. While he’s heard that Edward Don had committed to the property, he says he’s recently seen the property listed for lease.
“They were ready to do the deal, but it hasn’t happened yet,” Much said.
Adding to the uncertainty was a statement on Sept. 12 by North Riverside Trustee Rocco DeSantis that an Edward Don employee told him the company had notified employees they would be leaving North Riverside in 2012.
“One of the employees said that they received a note that in 2012 they’re closing up,” said DeSantis.
However, he did not see a copy of the notice.
“They have to make a decision because their employees are getting antsy,” said Belmonte.