Suburban fight for retail not an easy one

It’s just one store, but it’s likely a welcome addition to Buffalo Grove’s retail landscape.

Marshalls, a national retailer of, according to its website, “fashionable, brand name family apparel, home fashions and other merchandise,” is planning to open in late Spring or early summer of 2015.

The 27,100 square foot store, located in Woodland Commons at Buffalo Grove and Half Day roads, is one of the few, if not the only national retailer in the village.  The occupancy was confirmed by the Inland Real Estate Corporation, which manages Woodland Commons.  Calls to Marshalls were not returned.

The commitment by Marshalls to move to Buffalo Grove is an indication that there is an interest by major retailers in the village.  It does not, however, mean that a major development will be an overwhelming success.

Barring any changes in the coming year, Woodland Commons will have a 100 percent occupancy rate, a rarity in large suburban strip centers. Woodland Commons has more than 170,000 square feet of retail space.  Whatever Inland’s strategies are, they seem to be working.  The company manages a number of nearby strip centers including Rivertree Court and Hawthorn Village Commons, both in Vernon Hills and the Red Top Plaza in Libertyville.

If the arrival Marshalls is an indication of a turn in the retail economy, the village could see some of the vacancies in strip centers, especially those along Dundee Road, become occupancies.

But don’t, however, sit back and say “it’s about time the village did something” because the village is not a rental agent, nor does it develop business plans for businesses.  The village has offered incentives to developers, as it did to the interested developers of Cambridge Commons at Dundee and Buffalo Grove roads, only to find that 14 Dundee Road LLC had more excuses than actions for making the eyesore a viable retail center.  You’d think incentives totaling $1.1 million would be a kick in the butt for the developer to get things going. There's only so much the village can do.

The challenge for the village is to find ways, besides offering financial incentives, to attract retailers.

Again, that’s a challenge.  The village is not a shopping destination and establishing it as one will not happen overnight or by building a new downtown.   That's case with many suburbs, which have long existed with a series of strip centers.  Many, like Buffalo Grove, do not appear to have comprehensive plans for retail that are centered around transportation centers.  Highland Park, are Arlington Heights are two suburban communities that were able to foster central business district redevelopment around commuter lines.

Buffalo Grove has a proposal for a massive central business district that would engulf much of its public golf course along Lake-Cook Road.  Not much has been done on it since the original presentation more than two years ago.  To no surprise,  residents near the proposed site are not happy.  The reality is, however,  that village like Buffalo Grove are going to have to find ways to boost retail sales that will, in turn, boost municipal coffers.

Supporters of the proposal for the Buffalo Grove central business district are almost euphoric about it.

              What they need to realize, and I'm sure they do, that Buffalo Grove, or for that matter any other suburban community,  isn’t Dyersville, Iowa.  It’s going to take more than building it to make them come.

That’s why the discussion of an Economic Development Commission at a recent Board workshop should serve as an encouraging sign for residents in the town of Bison.

In the meantime, Marshalls is a welcome addition.

But it’s just one store.

This is the first of a series examining suburban economic development.

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