Trying to convert large empty grocery stores to better uses

The end of a company can have rippling effects: a number of Chicago area communities have been working for years to fill empty Dominick’s stores.

When Dominick’s went out of business in December 2013, it added 72 empty stores to the Chicago area’s retail landscape. The most desirable ones were snatched up by chains like Jewel-Osco, Mariano’s and Whole Foods Market. Last year, Albertsons acquired Safeway, Dominick’s parent company, giving it control of most remaining Dominick’s leases and property in the area.

At least 18 suburbs are still trying to turn the lights back on in the darkened stores. As time drags on, the prolonged vacancies create pockets of blight in once-thriving retail areas, hurting town coffers, hindering other businesses and inconveniencing residents. Some officials blame Albertsons, saying the company is paying rent on dark buildings to block out Jewel-Osco competitors…

Albertsons has been “extending dark store leases” to keep out competition, a tactic that’s “objectionable, but not unusual” in the Chicago area’s extremely competitive grocery industry, said Andrew Witherell, a commercial real estate broker who consulted with Mariano’s on its expansion into 11 former Dominick’s stores…

Other towns have banded together to attract retailers. Last year, nine western suburbs launched a joint effort, “One Call/10 Stores,” to try to fill some 700,000 square feet of former Dominick’s space. Most of those stores, however, remain empty.

In other words, there is little incentive for Albertsons to sell the properties. I would also guess that a number of suburbs have struggled to find tenants who could use all of the building space and possibly be there for a long time. In many places, is there really a need for another grocery store given all the options (and with Walmart operating as the biggest grocery chain in America)?

Perhaps some of these communities need to head in different directions. Break the large store into smaller pieces. Think about retrofitting the whole structure to include a mix of uses and alter the big store and large parking lot dynamic. Maybe demolishing the structure could provide a fresh start and entice someone who doesn’t want to be saddled with an aging large structure. It will be interesting to see how long communities will go before trying something more drastic.

One thought on “Trying to convert large empty grocery stores to better uses

  1. Pingback: Suburbs ask grocery chain to fill vacant stores rather than leaving them empty | Legally Sociable

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