Here comes Target
Not everyone thrilled with a big box at Fannie May site
06/30/2010 10:00 PM
In killing more than a passel of real estate projects pitched during the waning days of the housing boom, the economic crush has created openings for others.
Such is the case with the Target Corporation, which suddenly found an opportunity to build in the West Loop when plans for a condo-and-retail building slated for a vacant parcel in the southern section of the neighborhood withered on the vine.
“We’ve wanted to be part of the West Loop community for probably 15 years now, but we’ve not been able to put together a project or a piece of ground. It’s been really just impossible for us,” said Target Regional Manager Forrest Russell, at a community meeting organized by Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd) last week. “Yes, because of the economic downturn we’ve become the benefactor in this situation.”
The Minneapolis-based retailer is currently in negotiations with IBT Group, whose West Loop Promenade development — 370 condominiums, 285,000 square feet of retail space — couldn’t be pulled off, to purchase the four-acre former Fannie May property, a site bordered by Jackson, Van Buren, Aberdeen and an alley on the west for their 11th Chicago store (their 10th, at Wilson Yard in Uptown, is set to open soon).
It isn’t the first example of a parcel once slated for residential units and smaller retail space shifting use in the West Loop. A series of mid-rise buildings near Madison and Racine won’t rise for now, as the T-shirt seller, Threadless, prepares the parcel for its new headquarters.
Designs for the proposed Target shopped to West Loop residents last week showed a two-tone brick façade with an entrance at Jackson and Aberdeen. A little fewer than 400 parking stalls would sit at street level, with the sales floor above. Between 200 and 250 employees would work in the store’s offices, storage rooms and aisles, 20 to 25 percent in full-time positions. Around eight semi-trucks would haul in the merchandise each week, with 12 arriving during the Christmas season.
Should Target’s plan come to fruition, the West Loop store would sit less than 2.5 miles from its South Loop location at Clark and Roosevelt, but Russell said the site fit the company’s criteria for new stores, including building in areas that have the potential for population growth. He noted the nearby presence of the University of Illinois-Chicago, with its tens of thousands of students and staff.
“This is really great from our standpoint, and hopefully from yours,” Russell said.
Among some of the questioners out for last week’s meeting, however, there was a sense in which the store’s development was moving too quickly, and that the company’s initial designs didn’t completely hit the mark.
“It’s nothing that reflects our community at all,” Barbara Talisman said.
Jerry Galipeau told the Target representatives he thought the store represented a real economic opportunity. But he, too, didn’t like the designs he saw.
“You have been put in a horrible position of trying to design a Target for this neighborhood in three weeks,” he said, arguing that the company’s architect had chosen less-than-stellar neighborhood buildings to inspire her initial renderings. “You need to spend a lot of time here, and walk through these neighborhoods, walk down the alleys, look at the way this place is constructed, and then wow me, to say, ‘Go ahead Ald. Fioretti, let’s make this happen.’”
Time, however, isn’t something Target says it has much of. Lori Mahowlad, a company representative, said IBT is pushing for a sale and closing this summer. “That’s what the seller wants,” she said. IBT executive Gary Pachuki didn’t return a phone call seeking comment.
Other reactions to the Target ranged from outright opposition to the store to embracing it.
LuAnn Doty lives a couple of blocks east of the Fannie May site, and was ready for “something different” there.
“We have a Target,” she said. “I go to Target all the time. It’s on Roosevelt.”
“I like Target, and I like what Target represents as a corporation,” said Janice Rallo. “But I like my community better.” And that community, Rallo argued, should stay oriented toward residential developments first and foremost.
Travis Johnson said he would have preferred to see West Loop Promenade built at the Jackson and Aberdeen parcel, but was ready to see Target come to the area.
“I think it’s good for the community and good for land values,” he said.
Johnson suggested adding a second entrance during the meeting and wondered if the alley just east of the Hubbard Street Dance Studio would be big enough to handle the semi trucks.
“They still got a long way to go,” Fioretti, whose ward includes the parcel, said after the meeting. “It’s still a work in progress.”
Eric Sedler, a member of the West Loop Community Organization’s board, said a retail use at the Fannie May site wasn’t out of character with the neighborhood. He said the store would be less dense than the movie theater, health club and other retail slots eyed for West Loop Promenade.
“Our view is that a several-story, single-use retail development is an appropriate use, and so our goal is to make the Target as good as it could be,” he said
Target is eyeing an October 2012 ribbon cutting for the West Loop store.