City Approves $7 Million TIF For Upscale Greektown Grocer Building Within Mile Of Five Other Grocers

On Tuesday, the city's Community Development Commission approved a $7 million public subsidy, through the city's controversial tax increment financing (TIF) program, that will finance nearly 17 percent of the estimated $41.8 million total cost to install a new Mariano's Fresh Market near the corner of Halsted and Monroe Streets in the Greektown neighborhood.

The 95,125-square-foot project at 14 S. Halsted Street, titled the Gateway, will be principally anchored by Mariano's, which is owned by the Milwaukee-based grocery chain Roundy's, on the second floor of the complex, Crain's reported. The development's ground floor would offer some 23,530 square feet of retail space.The project, which also includes a 220-space surface parking lot, is said to create more than 200 permanent jobs and some 250 temporary construction jobs.

The development's reliance on TIF funding is sure to raise eyebrows. As Curbed pointed out: "the West Loop isn't exactly skid row, and this section of the 'hood certainly isn't starving for groceries; a full-service Dominick's is located just across the street." In fact, the upscale market's proposed location is within a half-mile radius of two smaller grocers (City Fresh Market and Arista Foods) besides Dominick's, as well as two others within a one-mile radius (Jewel Osco and Whole Foods).

In May, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled a new committee that would study the effectiveness of TIFs and determine the standards within which a TIF can be evaluated as worthy versus not. They are due to release a report later this year. The TIF program has often been criticized for diverting the city's property tax revenue from other areas where it is more direly needed, such as schools or infrastructure, while not serving as a stimulus to blighted areas of the city, as it was originally intended to do.

While the developer behind the Gateway has previously eyed a summer groundbreaking, according to Curbed, no specific construction start date has yet been announced.

Mariano's, which says it offers "the freshest high-quality foods from just about everywhere in the world," opened its first store in Arlington Heights last year. Since then, the company has opened a second store in Vernon Hills, has a third under construction in Palatine and a fourth planned in downtown Wheaton, according to the Daily Herald. The Greektown development will mark the company's first store within Chicago's city limits.