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Good news, challenges found in Downers Grove economic development update

DOWNERS GROVE – The Downers Grove restaurant and retail communities experienced some significant growth during the first quarter of 2017, Michael Cassa, president and CEO of the Downers Grove Economic Development Corp., said at the July 11 Village Council meeting.

“There are a lot of opportunities to attract retailers and restaurants to Downers Grove to help our shopping center owners upgrade their centers and their tenant mix and to pursue business opportunities,” Cassa said during his quarterly report to the council.

For example, tenants will soon be announced for the retail development located on the northwest corner of Ogden Avenue and Main Street, Cassa said. One of the tenants is expected to be Panda Express, he said.

Other eateries that now call Downers Grove home include Outback Steakhouse, which replaces Cheeseburger in Paradise at Butterfield and Finley roads.

“We’ve been working on them for about four years,” Cassa said.

Nossa Brazilian Grill will also open in the near future in Butterfield Plaza, he said.

One of the village’s largest auto dealerships, Packey Webb Ford, is expected to open its new location in December, and other dealerships are being targeted to occupy the current location at Ogden and Finley roads.

The Village Council in August approved the construction of a new Packey Webb Ford dealership at 1815 Ogden Ave.

As a part of the approval, the council pledged $5 million in property tax reimbursement stemming from redevelopment expenses related to environmental and stormwater concerns.

The move was jumpstarted by Ford, who told Packey Webb ownership it had to move to a larger location to align with corporate requirements.

The proposed 53,759-square-foot structure will house a showroom, offices, a service area and stand-alone car wash on top of 815 parking spots.

Meanwhile, Ogden Lincoln of Westmont, 100 Ogden Ave., is retrofitting its dealership. Cassa said.

Finally, United Healthcare plans to open a regional headquarters in the village, Cassa said.

While several businesses have decided to locate in Downers Grove, the loss earlier this year of two anchor stores at the Grove Shopping Center was a blow to the retail community.

The large strip mall located at the northeast corner of 75th and Main streets lost Ultra Foods and Michael’s, and other smaller businesses also have departed.

But Cassa maintains a positive outlook on the center’s future.

“There are some opportunities as well,” he said. “We’ve been getting interest in that center. It is in a key location in a great corridor.”

He added that attracting businesses to the mall is his organization's top priority.

Cassa added that there’s an effort to get the numerous owners of the mall properties to work together to attract a single tenant to the vacancy.

The mall involves 18 owners—14 who own properties on the out lots that surround the mall, and four who control the inline properties, Cassa said.

Ultra Foods’ departure occurred when several other stores in the regional chain closed their doors.

Michaels’ closing was part of the retailer’s plan to open two new stores in its place, one which is located in Finley Square, Cassa said.

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