New owner of West Side Sears site wants more retail, fewer apts.

Old Sears building would be fully demolished

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By Igor Studenkov

Contributing Reporter

Novak Construction, the new owner of the former Sears store at North Avenue and Harlem, is looking to build more retail, while keeping some of the residential components outlined in an earlier redevelopment plan.

As previously reported, Seritage Holdings, which inherited the ownership of the site when it was spun off from Sears, sold several of its Chicago properties to Novak Construction. Seritage had previously worked with Chicago-based Tucker Development to turn the Sears complex into a mixed-use development with retail space and upscale apartments. 

Novak now proposes to demolish the Sears building altogether and build a new grocery store, two retail buildings and a drive-through restaurant, while keeping the apartment plans for the site's east parking lot the same as Tucker's. In a message to constituents, Chicago Ald. Chris Taliaferro (28th), whose ward includes both lots, said he will be hosting community meetings over Zoom "within the next 2-3 weeks," but didn't give any concrete details by deadline.

The previous proposal attracted plenty of support from residents because of the jobs it would create and the new customer traffic it would generate, but it also attracted opposition. Most of the concerns centered around the fact that residential units would be apartments rather than condominiums, as well as the size of the buildings. Residents living among Nordica Avenue, east of the east parking lot, were especially concerned about the impact of the buildings towering over their houses. Some residents were also concerned about the lack of green spaces.

In the message to constituents, Taliaferro wrote that he asked Novak to create more green space on the east lot than what the Tucker plan called for.

It should be noted that Tucker already gutted the existing Sears building to prepare it for the renovation, but the work was paused at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The plan doesn't make it clear what would happen with the CTA Route 72/North Ave bus turnaround, which currently wraps around the Sears building. 

In his message to constituents, Taliaferro was optimistic about the new owner.

"[John Novak, president of Novak Construction] is excited about the opportunity to bring the 29th Ward a project that we will be proud of," he wrote. "His family has extensive experience in neighborhood-based development, and it is important for him that this project is well received by the ward."


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