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Butera looks to make oasis out of Elgin northwest side ‘food desert’

A building thonce housed an Eagle grocery store Elgin's northwest side could find new life as Butergrocery store. | File

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

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Updated: February 11, 2014 6:28AM

ELGIN — Plans are moving along to eliminate the city’s northwest side “food desert.”

Butera Market has submitted documents for its planned move to the former Eagle Country Market site at McLean Boulevard and Big Timber Road.

“The city is reviewing Butera Market’s application and plans for permits to complete its interior modifications, and the city will be completing its review of those submittals not later than next week,” Assistant City Manager Rick Kozal said.

Kozal noted Butera also will be submitting a zoning application for a conditional-use permit to allow the sale of package liquor at the store, which might come before the city’s planning and zoning commission as early as Feb. 10.

The city council is set to move along an incentive package for Butera that would end a 10-year grocery store drought in the area.

Butera wants to move into the former Eagle site in the Tyler Creek Plaza. Eagle closed in 2003. More recently, retailer Home Plus Outlet occupied the site but closed in 2012.

The loss of the Eagle turned the neighborhood into a “food desert,” defined as an area where more than a third of the residents live a mile or more from the nearest grocery store.

In late August, the city council approved an incentive agreement with the Elgin-based chain that will 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. Taxes collected for the city would still go into its general fund, while the rebates would come from Elgin’s take of Grand Victoria Casino money.

Elgin fast-tracked the permit process for Butera and waived 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 agreed to issue a liquor license for the new grocery store, allowing the package sale of all alcohol.

Butera is 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 can terminate the agreement and seek repayment.

The lone vote against the project was by Councilman John Prigge, who questioned whether there would be support for the store and who thought the $500,000 should have been half that. Council member Carol Rauschenberger abstained from a vote due to her involvement in an effort to bring a food cooperative to Elgin.

Butera expects to spend about $4 million on the purchase and renovations to convert the space. The store would be Butera’s 10th location. The company also owns and operates 104 Piggly Wiggly grocery stores.

A memo from city staff last August said the purchase presented 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 memo said.

According to reports, Butera eventually would like to open another store in Elgin, on the east side at 880 Summit St. — a more competitive location not far from an Aldi, a Fresh Market, and a Jewel-Osco.

Butera Finer Foods Vice President Paul Butera Jr. did not respond to a message left for him about the status of the projects.

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