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EP mayor says new Plaza deal is a 'grand slam'

  • Written by Bob Rakow

The wrecking ball is finally ready to swing at the Plaza.

 

After several failed attempts, plans to raze and rebuild the iconic Evergreen Park mall are in motion after the village trustees Monday approved a development agreement for the shopping center.

 

“It’s finally right at our fingertips,” Evergreen Park Mayor Jim Sexton said. “We’re a huge step closer to getting the Plaza done. It will be a grand slam, not a home run.”

 

Despite an ongoing series of setbacks, the mayor expressed confidence that a deal eventually would be struck to redevelop the Plaza, which has largely been vacant since 2013.

 

“Sometimes you got to put on the full court press,” Sexton said. “All the stars aligned on this.”

 

Trustees unanimously approved a 45-day memo of understanding with Evergreen Park Developers, a partnership between DeBartolo Development and Lormax Stern Development Co. of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., which has a contract to purchase the mall.

 

“We think now it’s finally time,” said Daniel Stern, owner of Lormax Stern, a firm with a history of redeveloping failed shopping malls. “We think this project is more exciting than any of the others (we’ve done).”

 

Plans call for the Plaza, located at 95th Street and Western Avenue, to be razed, possibly as soon as this summer, Stern said. The new mall—Evergreen Park Marketplace—could open within 18 months, Sexton said.

 

Demolition costs are estimated at $10 million.

 

Planet Fitness and Applebee’s will remain at the new mall, Stern said. Carson’s has expressed an interest in locating in the new mall, he said.

 

The new outdoor mall will feature between 30 and 40 stores, the majority of them national retailers, Stern said.

 

He said interest in the mall is already very high.

 

“People want to come into your village,” said Stern, adding that a gourmet grocery store such as Whole Foods could be in the mix. “There’s more tenants than there is space.”

 

Stern added that the region’s demographic, the amount of traffic and the lack of major retailers in area will make the mall a success. He said the mall would draw most of its customers from a three-mile radius, which would include the Evergreen Park, Oak Lawn and Chicago’s Beverly, Morgan Park, Mt. Greenwood and Wrightwood communities.

 

Monday’s announcement is a significant achievement for Sexton, who’s made the Plaza’s rebirth a primary goal.

 

At his December State of the Village address, Sexton hinted at plans to redevelop the mall. But days later, reality hit the mayor and the village hard as Crains Chicago business reported that a potential deal with the Tampa-based DeBartelo group collapsed and the foreclosure process has restarted.

That news didn’t deter Sexton, who insisted a deal was still in the works and Crain’s report was inaccurate.

“This isn’t an Evergreen Park thing, it’s a South Side thing,” Sexton said.

He added that the success of Wal-Mart, Meijer, Menard’s and other retailers on Western Avenue coupled with Mariano’s decision to bring a store to Evergreen Park, made the village an appealing location for other major retailers.

Built in 1952, the Plaza was identified as one of the first modern American shopping malls and was a template for others built around the country. It features 1.2 million square feet of retail floor area and at one time had approximately 120 stores and a food court.