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CHICAGO-Considered “cutting-edge” legislation that limits negative use restrictions in retail leases, an ordinance being sent to the city council falls short, according to some aldermen. A joint committee of the city council’s zoning and economic development panels endorsed a measure Thursday aimed at stopping grocery and pharmacy chains from preventing rivals from taking their place once they vacate.

After meeting with representatives of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and Illinois Retail Merchants Association, co-sponsors Manuel Flores and Margaret Laurino tightened provisions in their ordinance. The law still affects grocery and drug stores occupying 7,500 sf or more. However, negative use restrictions will be allowed for one year if the grocer or pharmacy relocates to comparable or larger quarters within a half-mile of its site and begins operations in two years. However, the city’s zoning administrator and local alderman would have discretion to extend those limits to one mile and three years, a change from the earlier proposal. The ordinance bans negative use restrictions for grocery and pharmacy leases signed after May 11.

“I support the ordinance, but it will not affect what we’re intending to do, at least in my ward,” says 21st Ward Alderman Howard Brookins Jr., noting many deals also involve 100-year ground leases. “It’s been my experience that when these stores go dark, others will be talking with the lessee and will be told they won’t sublease it until they get a use that’s compatible.”

Brookins’ ward could get a new grocery store, but it could come at the expense of a Dominick’s outlet at 122 W. 79th St. closing, says 17th Ward Alderman Latasha Thomas. She notes plans are in the works for a 500,000-sf shopping center at 83rd Street and Stewart Avenue, a half-mile away from a center at 79th Street and the Dan Ryan Expressway, where Safeway-owned Dominick’s operates a store. “Because it’s a mega-mall, it could take three years to build, which would deplete that mall on 79th Street,” Thomas says.

“Three years is more than enough time to destroy a shopping center,” adds 6th Ward Alderman Freddrenna Lyle. “We’re going backwards.”

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