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PARK RIDGE, IL-Although a specialty grocery store is expected to open next summer, the retail portion of the Uptown redevelopment is beginning to disappoint some city officials in this suburb. While a book store was envisioned as a 30,000-sf anchor at Northwest Highway and Touhy Avenue, potential takers for the two-story triangular corner have nearly vanished.

While Mid-America Asset Management Inc. principal Michael George stopped inches short of confirming the store’s identity, Trader Joe’s is expected to open in August, among the first retailers in the $90-million mixed-use development. George told aldermen Monday a 12,000-sf lease has been signed for a specialty grocer, while letters of intent have been signed for nearly 16,000 sf by three restaurant chains–Houlihan’s, Potbelly Sandwiches and Noodles–as well as Chico’s.

In addition, Mid-America Asset Management is “active negotiations” for another 29,000 sf with retailers such as Banana Republic, JoS A. Banks, Ann Taylor Loft, Ulta, Caribou Coffee, Ritz Camera, Jamba Juice, Victoria’s Secret, California Pizza Kitchen and Yankee Candle, George reports.

“The leasing has gone arguably a little slower than we’d hoped,” George says. “But we’re offering space that won’t be ready for occupancy until ’07.”

While the first phase of the project was exclusively residential, the planned 85,000 sf of retail space is planned for the second and third phases. However, those plans may soon be revised, as 15,000 sf of retail space could be untaken. That would be on the second floor of what was once envisioned to be a book store or furniture outlet. While Barnes & Noble and Borders were both interested in the two-story corner spot, those companies opted against it, George says, both fearing leakage from other nearby stores in their chains. Likewise, Walter E. Smith had solicited all prospective developers of its interest for a prominent location in Uptown Park Ridge, George says. “Their whole real estate strategy changed,” he adds, noting the furniture retailer now targets sites close to regional malls.

Alderman Rex Parker suggests the change could prompt the city to reconsider zoning and other elements in its redevelopment agreement with PRC Partners, LLC, which includes Mid-America Asset Management, Edward R. James Partners and Valenti Builders. Other aldermen added the city was more interested in the new retail space rather than the 189 multifamily units on the 5.8-acre site. George says the city’s share of sales taxes generated by the development over the next 22 years should exceed the $14.3 million projected.

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