PORTAGE PARK — Plans to turn a long-vacant former bank building in the Six Corners Shopping District into a grocery store are still active, the owner of Cermak Fresh Market said.
Ald. John Arena (45th) was not correct when he told a meeting of the Six Corners Business Association last week that the grocery chain definitely planned to sell the vacant Bank of America building at 4901 W. Irving Park Road and focus on taking over two former Dominick's stores, said Cermak Fresh Market owner Mike Bousis.
"I like the neighborhood," Bousis said of the 45th Ward, which includes Portage Park and Jefferson Park. "It will be good for my brand. We want to be there."
Cermak Fresh Market will take over two shuttered Dominick's grocery stores — one in West Rogers Park at 6623 N. Damen Ave. and the other in Lincolnwood at 6810 N. McCormick Blvd., just outside the city limits, Bousis said. The chain is also opening a new store in Milwaukee.
Arena told the business owners at the Six Corners Community Leaders Roundtable that Bousis had been "distracted" from plans to build a full-scale grocery store featuring ethnic foods, a full-service bakery and prepared foods at Six Corners by the work involved in converting the former Dominick's and was looking to "turn the property over again."
"We want to get that property into the hands of someone who wants to do something in the near term," Arena said.
Bousis acknowledged he and his team were working hard to reopen the former Dominick's stores but said the alderman's statement was not correct.
"We're not distracted," Bousis said.
For nearly 10 months, Bousis and Arena have been debating whether the original building at 4901 W. Irving Park Road — and a historic theater inside — can be salvaged, leaving the project in limbo.
The grocery store project would require a change in the property's zoning and the alderman's support.
However, at the alderman's request, Bousis is reconsidering his original plan to tear down both the former bank building and a single-story shop he owns next door to build the new supermarket. There is no way to turn the existing building into the grocery store, Bousis said.
Because Arena has said he would like to see the theater incorporated into Six Corners' burgeoning arts and entertainment district — and also has concerns about whether a grocery store would be a good fit so close to nearby homes — Bousis said he is considering selling the property if he can find another nearby location for his grocery store.
"If the deal isn't right, we aren't going to sell," Bousis said, adding that he has fielded "a couple" of inquiries from people interested in buying the properties. He declined to identify the interested parties.
Bousis said he has not found another nearby location for his store.
Owen Brugh, Arena's chief of staff, downplayed any disagreement between the alderman and the grocery store chain owner, and said Arena would welcome a Cermak Fresh Market in the 45th Ward.
"We're still working with him on the future of 4901 W. Irving Park Road and other potential locations," Brugh said. "He wants to be here, and we'd love to have him here."
A city-commissioned master plan, completed in January, said efforts to revitalize the area around Irving Park Road and Cicero and Milwaukee avenues, which was once Chicago's premier shopping district outside the Loop, hinge on the redevelopment of the building, which has been vacant since 2011.