By Bob Uphues
Is the grocery chain Aldi planning to build a new freestanding store at North Riverside Park Mall, in the parking lot in front of the former Sears lower level along Cermak Road?
According to a site plan included in online marketing materials for the former Sears property – which includes vacant portions of the retail anchor space, the former auto center and two large parking lots flanking the building to the north and west – an Aldi store is "coming soon!"
The site plan on the website of the commercial real estate brokerage firm CBRE, which formerly designated the north parking lot as a potential development site, now includes the outline of a building emblazoned with an Aldi logo.
An Aldi logo with the words "coming soon" are part of other online marketing materials for the former Sears property, which is owned by Seritage Growth Properties, a real estate investment trust.
But, the mall's own general manager says that while he welcomes development at the shopping center, he has not been told of any plan to build an Aldi store in the north parking lot.
"That'd be the first look I've had on that," said Glenn Lindholm, general manager of North Riverside Park Mall after the Landmark sent him a link to CRBE's marketing site plan.
North Riverside Village Administrator Sue Scarpiniti said that while she has understood Seritage to be interested in developing the outlot, she has been able to get no confirmation from Seritage, the listing agent from CBRE or Aldi's corporate office about a grocery store being planned there.
But, something is afoot.
The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago recently notified the village of North Riverside that Seritage Growth Properties had submitted an application for a permit to construct a flood-control system at the site.
The application, a copy of which was shared with the village, did not detail what the project was. Last month, a crew was seen by the Landmark taking soil borings at the site.
According to Scarpiniti, Seritage has not approached the village for permission to redevelop the outlot, which would be required before anything can move forward.
"It's not zoned for an outlot, so if they want to do that, they should get in here sooner than later," Scarpiniti said, adding that while allowing such a development likely wouldn't be a problem, the village would want to discuss traffic and aesthetics for the site.
There is an existing Aldi store less than one mile away in North Riverside, in a strip mall at 2000 Harlem Ave. It would seem likely that if the company built a new standalone store at North Riverside Park Mall that it would close the Harlem Avenue store.
It's likely that a store at the mall would be similar to the one recently built at Harlem and Archer avenues in Chicago. In fact, the outline of that store in an aerial photo on Google Maps appears to be identical to the line drawing of the building shown on CBRE's online marketing materials for the mall development site.