A food desert no more: Incentive deal in the works to bring Butera to Elgin’s northwest side
By Mike Danahey email@example.com @DanaheyECN on Twitter August 26, 2013 3:32PM
A building that once housed an Eagle grocery store on Elgin's northwest side could find new life as a Butera grocery store. | File Photo~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 29, 2013 6:14AM
ELGIN — The city council is set to move along an incentive package for Butera that would end a 10-year grocery store drought on Elgin’s northwest side.
The site in question is in the Tyler Creek Plaza off McLean Boulevard. The building once held an Eagle Country Market, which closed in 2003. More recently, retailer Home Plus Outlet occupied the site, but it closed within the last year.
According to supporting material for this week’s committee of the whole session, the Elgin-based Butera Market chain recently executed an option to purchase the 38,000-square-foot northwest-side facility. If the sale goes through, Butera expects to spend about $4 million on the purchase and renovations to convert the space for its needs.
The store would be Butera’s 10th location. The company also owns and operates 104 Piggly Wiggly grocery stores.
The supporting material claims the purchase presents a risk to Butera because of other vacancies in the shopping center and the center’s current lack of an anchor store.
“The city has marketed the parcel to potential grocery store operators over the years, but all have ultimately passed on investing in the location,” the material states.
A sweeter deal
Thus, an incentive package was created that would rebate one-half of the sales tax and alcohol tax revenue generated by the store for 10 years, up to a maximum of $500,000. With such incentives, the taxes collected for the city go into its general fund, while the rebates come from Elgin’s take of Grand Victoria Casino money.
Elgin also would fast-track the permit process for Butera and waive building permit fees. Impact fees, other governmental agency fees and any third-party engineering review fees still would be paid by Butera.
The city also would issue a liquor license for the new grocery store, allowing the package sale of all alcohol.
Butera would be required to keep open its east-side store just south of downtown at 1 Clock Tower Plaza during the term of the incentive agreement. That location generates about $110,000 in annual sales tax and alcohol tax for Elgin.
If Butera fails to continue simultaneously operating the two stores, the city could terminate the agreement and seek repayment.
Butera is reimbursing the city for retaining The Incentis Group, which conducted an economic and fiscal impact analysis of the Butera development and the proposed economic incentive agreement that is to be ready Tuesday.
Mayor Dave Kaptain said Monday that the family-owned chain approached the city about seven or eight months ago to talk about finding an additional location and to discuss incentives.
Kaptain and his wife live in Eagle Heights, on the city’s northwest side, and the Jewel at 1600 Larkin Ave. is the closest grocery store in town to their home. A closer grocer will help locals who don’t have transportation or who are watching every penny, Kaptain said.
“Elgin also lost some business from Sleepy Hollow residents when the Eagle closed,” Kaptain said.
A food desert
Northern Illinois University nutrition professor Beverly Henry, who is a member of the healthy-living initiative Activate Elgin, was glad to hear a grocer might be returning to the northwest side.
“This is just great,” Henry said.
Before moving this year, Henry and her husband lived on Elgin’s northwest side for 28 years. In August 2009, she told The Courier-News how that part of Elgin used to hold two grocery stores not far from the family’s home in the Century Oaks subdivision.
Prior to Eagle shutting its doors for good in 2003, Gromer’s, along McLean Boulevard in the Wing Park Shopping Center, closed in 1995. So Henry took to shopping primarily at the Jewel-Osco almost three miles away.
As such, she noted, the area was fast becoming a “food desert.” In March 2012, Henry told The Courier-News that a food desert can broadly be defined as an area where there “is insufficient availability of fresh foods because there are few or no grocery stores nearby.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture notes that low access communities that make up food deserts are census tracts where more than one-third of the residents live more than a mile from a grocery store, which would be the case on the northwest side.
“A critical step in addressing issues such as obesity and chronic health disease is giving people access to reasonably priced foods,” Henry said Monday. To that end, she mentioned that the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity has listed increasing such access as its top objective.
Paul Butera Sr. said the company had heard about the food desert issue in Elgin. So being a neighbor, plus the incentive discussions, led to the company’s decision to move on the Tyler Creek Plaza site.