'Armpit' Kohl's site finally draws genuine interest from a developer

Sept. 21, 2006

After years of serving as an eyesore, a former Kohl's Food Store may finally get a makeover.

"For the first time ever, we have somebody who's really interested in restoring the vacant Kohl's building," said Chuck Erickson, director of Planning and Economic Development, concerning the structure at 5455 S. 27th St.

That person is Alan Kaplan, president of Repak Real Estate Development in Deerfield, Ill.. Kaplan has requested that the city authorize its financial consulting firm, Ehlers & Associates, to conduct a tax-incremental financing feasibility analysis for the site.

His intention is to remodel the building shell, add landscaping, replace lighting and signage, and make it a more attractive location for businesses looking to lease space. He has accepted an offer to purchase the property with contingencies, Erickson said.

Residents often cite the property as one of the worst-looking, most underused in the city, Mayor Michael Neitzke said. The 163,000-square-foot building also suffers from asbestos problems, he added.

Redeveloping this property would go a long way in improving the city's portion of the commercial corridor.

"This is part of a bigger plan to better the South 27th Street area," Neitzke said.

The building is owned by Masue Trust, a Florida-based real estate investment trust that continues to collect rent money from the former tenant.

"The owner has no incentive whatsoever to do anything with the property," Neitzke said.

As a result, the asking price stands far above market value. So in order for Kaplan to take the chance and invest in the property, he will need financial support, Erickson said.

"We've had this armpit sitting there," Erickson said. "It will likely stay that way unless there's some assistance from the city to make it an attractive place for commercial real estate activity."

Kaplan also told city officials he'd like to develop the corner outlot, a spot that could attract such businesses as banks, coffee shops or fast-food restaurants.

If the vacant Kohl's Food Store is redeveloped, city officials would like to see changes to the entire nearly 4-acre site; however, the northern end of the parcel that includes Pet World belongs to a separate owner, bringing another party into the mix.

The committee unanimously agreed to forward the issue to the Common Council with a recommendation contingent on the developer reimbursing the city for the study costs.

The council was expected to take up the issue at its Sept. 19 meeting, after the Observer's deadline.

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