Pete's gets go-ahead
Three years after being picked, grocer seems to have pieces in place
08/15/2012 10:00 PM
Pete’s Fresh Market, the Near West Side grocer that’s wrestled with the city for three years to get moving on a new store at Madison and Western, appears to have the final puzzle piece in place and could start construction next month.
On Friday, Pete’s was granted building permits to start construction Sept. 1 on its 55,000-square-foot store and an attached strip mall. It should be the final measure of city approval that’s needed to start building on the site.
The store’s manager, Charlie Poulikis, said the store should be finished about a year once they start building it, assuming things go smoothly.
But nothing has gone smoothly over the course of Pete’s three-year history on the Near West Side.
Pete’s was formally selected by the city to build a store on the site almost exactly three years ago on, Aug. 20, 2009, besting proposals from Jewel and Food4Less. But it took the city two and a half years to assemble the land for the store, consolidating pieces of land and vacating former alleys. The city also had to deal with gaining control of land from a former developer.
Finally, in January 2012, Pete’s formally bought the land from the city. In February, a groundbreaking ceremony was held on the site of the store, featuring Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) and much pomp and circumstance.
In the six months since, though, the only thing that’s popped up on the vacant lot is more weeds.
That’s because Pete’s has been going back and forth with the city for months on the minute details of its building permits. Along the way, they’ve run into issues with fossilized tickets they were required to pay before getting the permits, as well as debates about who would pay for pavement repairs in front of the store, the size and placement of planters on the sidewalks and aligning handicapped-accessible ramps with Walgreens across the street.
“It’s been frustrating getting them to issue the permit,” Poulikis said. “One person tells you one thing, and another tells you another.”
Fioretti said he tried on numerous occasions to get everyone into one room to talk about the project — people from the Department of Buildings, Housing and Economic Development, and Pete’s.
Finally, with the threat of another meeting on the horizon, the permits were granted last Friday at 5 p.m.
“A lot of the departments had the inability to talk to each other,” Fioretti said. “I think when you get them all in the same room together working and talking, it makes a difference.”
The fact that it’s taken this long is a shame, he said. Pete’s hasn’t asked for any TIF money from the city or other financial incentives, and the project will bring the Near West Side out of a food desert.
“Quite frankly, it was an embarrassment for the city that we weren’t able to do this at this stage,” Fioretti said. “Now that the finger-pointing has come to an end, everybody’s going to live happily ever after. We’re going to have a great project.”
Moving forward, Poulikis said they’re currently locking down their construction team and should be ready to begin prep work on the site within a week. They’re going to try to have the store’s foundation ready by this winter. Their target at this point is to have the store open by August or September 2013.
Aside from Pete’s, the current roster of stores that could be a part of the project includes a T-Mobile cellphone store, a Chinese food place, a coffee shop and a Dots clothing store. Few of those stores have locked in at this point with leases, though that could quickly shift now that construction is ready to begin.