Fresh Thyme Farmer's Market names June opening date

Construction wrapping at North Avenue grocery store

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By Deborah Kadin

UPDATED: May 17, 2017 at 2:10 p.m.

If it's posted on the corporate website it must be true: Fresh Thyme Farmers Market will open at 7501 North Ave. in River Forest on June 21.

After a number of starts and stops due to construction issues, the former Dominick's Finer Foods site on North Avenue will again become the third grocery store in town. 

River Forest Village Administrator Eric Palm told Wednesday Journal that he popped in on site recently to look at the progress, and the site manager was optimistic the store would be ready early. He learned late last week about the opening date.

Palm said he knew they were running ahead of schedule, but didn't know it was by that much.

"They still need to get their final inspections and certificate of occupancy permits though, but should be able to complete that by opening day," Palm said.

There have been more plenty of bumps on the road to getting the long-shuttered building ready for occupancy. In February 2016, work shut down when a brick façade on the east wall gave way.

In an attempt to find out the condition of the building, the village that May sought an injunction in Cook County Circuit Court requiring Fresh Thyme and the property owner, Mid-America Real Estate Group, to repair or demolish the building "within a reasonable time."

That issue was resolved, and Mid-America in January 2017 turned over the building to Fresh Thyme to complete the interior build out. 

Once the store opens, Fresh Thyme will be able to take advantage of Cook County tax breaks to cover the costs of their repairs. The village approved a 7C property tax exemption in September 2014; the county board followed suit two months later.

The building has been unoccupied since December 2013 when Dominick's Finer Foods moved out of the 25,000-square-foot location. Safeway Inc., Dominick's parent company, announced in the fall of 2013 it would leave the Chicago market.

Village officials pegged Fresh Thyme, along with a tax increment finance district, as the best options to spur redevelopment on North Avenue. Work to create a TIF is expected to move forward this year.

River Forest Village President Catherine Adduci was ecstatic the store was opening early. People, she said, can't wait.

Adduci said the store will have a huge impact on development along North Avenue, especially after the tax increment finance district is formed, either later this year or early in 2018.

"Fresh Thyme will be an anchor and a draw," Adduci said. "Any time you get something new, that will draw some new development. People will see some life there. TIF districts accelerate development."

A spokesman for Fresh Thyme said that the store will have approximately 100 employees; 60 percent of the staff is hired. Residents can apply for positions on the corporation's website at www.freshthyme.com/careers.

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