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Des Plaines approves tax breaks for Mariano's project

Chicago Tribune
Des Plaines officials have given the OK for tax incentives to build a Mariano's

Long-standing rumors that Mariano's is interested in opening a store on Golf Road in Des Plaines may be true.

The Des Plaines City Council voted unanimously at its May 5 meeting to recommend to the Cook County's Assessor's Office approval of a property-tax incentive application from Abbott Land and Investment Corp., the developer of a 10-acre site located at 10 E. Golf Road. At the same meeting, the council also unanimously approved a sales-tax rebate agreement with both the developer and Roundy's Supermarkets, the parent company of Mariano's.

Abbott Land and Investment Corp., owner of the property that sits at the corner of Golf and Mount Prospect roads, plans to demolish the former service center for Des Plaines-based bus manufacturer Motor Coach Industries, a 56,000-square-foot building vacant since 2013. In its place would be built a 74,000-square-foot Mariano's store, according to a memo written by Des Plaines Community and Economic Development Director George Sakas.

Constructing the new building and making required traffic improvements along Mount Prospect and Golf roads is expected to cost about $24 million, Sakas said.

Late last month, the Des Plaines Park District voted 4-0 to approve a permanent easement agreement between the developer and the district, paving the way for Abbott Land and Investment to build a roadway in the southern section of neighboring Blackhawk Park, park district Executive Director Don Miletic wrote in an email. The roadway would allow shoppers at the future Mariano's grocery store access to its parking lot, he said.

In exchange, Miletic said the developer would provide the park district access to the northern section of its property, allowing public entry to Blackhawk Park via Mount Prospect Road. The developer would also pay the district about roughly $670,000, which would cover construction of a new playground, walking path, picnic shelter, soccer field and improved landscaping in the park.

The result will be "a more utilized park with greater amenities," Miletic wrote.

If Cook County officials approve the developer's application, the new property would be assessed at 10 percent of its fair market value for the first 10 years, and then assessed at 15 percent in the 11th year and 20 percent in the 12th year, Sakas said. Normally, he said, commercial properties are assessed at 25 percent of fair market value. The program, Sakas said, prevents developers who invest large amounts of money into a property from being hit with a dramatically higher tax bill once the improvements have been made.

Even with the altered status in place, the property still would be expected to generate double the amount of tax revenue than what is currently received, he said.

Road improvements to the surrounding streets, which are required by the Illinois Department of Transportation, would include a new traffic light on Golf Road, turn lanes on Golf and a right turn lane improvement on Mount Prospect Road, Sakas wrote in a memo.

The cost of the improvements, which are expected to total $1.3 million, would be paid for entirely by the developer, he said.

But in order to make the project financially feasible, Sakas recommended approval of a sales-tax rebate. Under the agreement approved by the council, the city will refund 50 percent of the sales tax revenue generated each year back to the developer until the rebate totals $875,000.

Sakas said the city expects the store to generate $450,000 in sales tax revenue each year.

"Somewhere in year four of Mariano's being open, the developer would have recouped that $875,000 portion of road improvements, and the city would then receive the full $450,000 (in annual sales tax revenue)," he said.

One resident voiced opposition to the approved, and recommended incentive agreements.

"I don't understand why we'd give a billionaire a tax break," said Des Plaines resident Michael Pesola.

Ald. Mark Walsten, 6th, responded, saying that "a shrewd businessman will use every option out there."

But Des Plaines resident Mark Fowler said a Mariano's coming to the city was a "win-win-win" for everyone involved.

"I want to offer a preliminary welcome to Mariano's," Fowler said. Several dozen people in attendance at the meeting applauded his comments.

Despite support for the development, other residents voiced concerns about the impact on traffic, and said there was a lack of information about the design of the future grocery store.

City Manager Michael Bartholomew said he and Sakas have been "personally involved" in discussions about the project with IDOT, the park district and aldermen for the last eight months.

"All the design work, all the plans, what the building will look like — all that are the next steps," he said.

In an interview following the meeting, Sakas estimated that the soonest Mariano's could open is likely late summer or early fall of next year.

Lee V. Gaines is a freelance reporter.

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