Updated Feb. 28, 2012 11:45 a.m.

A big-box retailer is interested in the Edward Don property in North Riverside, says a spokesman for the partnership that owns the land. And while discussions with that retailer are preliminary, they are serious and will need the commitment of North Riverside’s village government to make a deal happen.

Jerald Much, president of Lincolnwood Developers, told the Landmark last week that a potential deal “was more than just talk,” but that the village would have to play a key role in offering financial incentives to make it happen. And quickly.

“There will only be a single opportunity to make the timing work,” said Much “The village has to play a role. The site has a chance to excel over what there was before.”

What “there was before” is the Edward Don Company, a foodservice supply giant that is North Riverside’s largest sales tax generator, according to village officials. The company has called North Riverside, specifically the northwest corner of 26th Street and Harlem Avenue, home for 41 years.

In 2007, Lincolnwood Developers and Monroe Investment Partners joined forces to buy the property, outbidding a branch of the Don family that sought to purchase the property from other family members. The real estate partnership bought the property for $14.75 million.

In 2011, the village of Woodridge put together a package of financial incentives, including millions in tax breaks to lure Edward Don from North Riverside. The company reportedly will be completely out of their longtime home by fall 2012. The company’s lease on the North Riverside property expires Dec. 31.

Much declined to disclose which retailer was looking at the Edward Don site, but said that it would “be one that adjoining shopping centers could live with.” The site, in particular, is surrounded by grocery stores – Jewel and Tony’s in North Riverside and a Meijer store that’s slated to open in summer 2012 in the Cermak Plaza in Berwyn.

North Riverside Mayor Ken Krochmal and Village Administrator Guy Belmonte said the last time they talked with a representative from the Lincolnwood/Monroe partnership was about a month ago. They confirmed that a big box retailer was mentioned as a potential replacement, but that there were no firm plans and few specifics.

“If there’s a site plan, we haven’t seen it,” Belmonte said. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed.”

Much said the partnership would be approaching the village soon about what it will take to make the deal happen. Big box retailers, just like the Edward Don Company, said Much, are savvy when it comes to leveraging what they can bring to a community in exchange for local assistance.

Much said the retailer would likely be looking to purchase the Edward Don property, which comprises 19 acres and includes a 365,000-square-foot office/warehouse building.

“They know what to offer, and they expect the village to come up with the rest of the money,” said Much. “The village can only hold back so far.

“If the village doesn’t step up to the plate or gets too sharp with their pencils, the deal will go astray.”

Much said that the deal is coming together quickly.

“Everything is geared for 2013,” Much said. “There’s an awful lot of paperwork and approvals that need to get done.”

Krochmal said it was impossible to know what kinds of incentives are expected from the village, because they’ve not been presented with a plan and haven’t heard from the property owners in a month.

“We’d have to see what they wanted,” Krochmal said. “We haven’t talked to them in a month or so.”

One key aspect of any deal, Much said, would be for the Canadian National Railroad, which has an easement running north and south between the Don site and the North Riverside Park Mall property, to remove the tracks.

Such a move would increase access to the area. Another set of railroad tracks on the Don property could also be removed to allow more flexibility for site planning. Much believes that the federal Surface Transportation Board would approve removing the CN tracks, which haven’t been used for rail traffic in many years.