The Forest Park Village Council, Monday, unanimously voted to provide GCC Company LLC up to $450,000 to facilitate the leasing, remodeling and operation of Living Fresh Market in the Forest Park Plaza shopping center.
Officials of Living Fresh Market say the new store will create 60 jobs when it opens at the 70,211-square-foot former Ultra Foods site at 7520 W. Roosevelt Road. Construction started in January. Although officials had initially hoped the store would open in April, the target date is now June 1, Mayor Anthony Calderone said Monday.
Ultra Foods closed in June 2017 after parent company Strack and Van Til went bankrupt. The mall is owned by Forest Park Plaza LLC, a for-profit entity of Living Word Christian Center.
The agreement calls for the village to annually reimburse GCC Company $5,000 for every $1 million in gross sales over seven years with the total not to exceed $450,000. The agreement terminates when the dollar threshold is met or after seven years.
The amount to be paid will be based on gross sales for each calendar year as submitted by GCC Company 30 days after the end of each calendar year.
Village Administrator Tim Gillian said the village has entered into similar redevelopment agreements in the past with Bed, Bath & Beyond, Currie Motors Chevrolet, Hawk Chrysler Dodge Jeep, and Grand Appliance. The difference between those agreements and the one with GCC Company, he noted, is the fund from which the reimbursement will be paid. Unlike previous redevelopment agreements, the GCC Company reimbursement will not come from sales tax revenue but from tax increment financing (TIF) funds. Because the Living Fresh Market site lies within the boundaries of the Roosevelt and Hannah Avenue TIF District, Gillian said upgrades done to the store are TIF eligible. He also said no other incentives are being contemplated at this time.
Comments by officials at Monday’s meeting were generally positive, with Commissioner Dan Novak saying he was “looking forward” to the opening and Calderone noting the opening will be “filling a huge void.”
Although he said he was pleased with the impending store opening, Commissioner Tom Mannix suggested adding a clause to the redevelopment agreement that would encourage GCC Company to hire as many Forest Park residents as possible.
“I’d love for all 60 jobs to come from our community,” he said.
Living Fresh Market is owned by the four Casaccio brothers — Ken, Daniel, Terry and Timothy John — third-generation grocers who also own Leamington Foods, a chain of three grocery stores in Hillside and on Chicago’s West Side.
“I am very pleased to have negotiated a small financial incentive to fill a 70,000-square-foot grocery space formerly occupied by Ultra Foods,” Calderone said. “This is great news for the village of Forest Park as it will increase the sales tax base as well as provide jobs.
“The new operators are family-owned and will bring a personal touch to the shopping experience. We wish them the very best and look forward to a mutual and positive experience in Forest Park.”
In addition to groceries, Living Fresh Market will offer a bakery, butcher, soup and salad bar, and hot foods section, where workers prepare fresh sandwiches.
The grocery store will also offer an international aisle with Hispanic, Italian, German and Chinese items.
Village officials are unsure of how much sales tax revenue Living Fresh Market will generate for the village. In 2016, Ultra generated $130,000 in sales tax revenue for Forest Park.
Following creation of a TIF district, the equalized assessed valuation (EAV) of the property is frozen for taxing bodies whose boundaries include the district. Any property tax revenue generated by the increased EAV goes into the TIF fund to be spent on improvements in the district, generally infrastructure.
TIF is a tool that Illinois lawmakers gave local governments in 1977 to help them restore their most run-down areas or jump-start economically sluggish parts of town. With this tool, financially strapped local governments can make the improvements they need, such as new roads or new sewers, and provide incentives to attract businesses or help existing businesses expand, without tapping into general funds or raising taxes.