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Plans for Heinen’s Grocery Store in east Naperville goes to city planners Wednesday

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A project that would bring a new, upscale grocery store to east Naperville — and revitalize a long-blighted local shopping center in the process — is headed to the Naperville Planning and Zoning Commission this week for review.

Ohio-based Heinen’s Grocery Stores plans to open a Naperville location on East Chicago Avenue between Pembroke Road and Oleson Drive, where a Butera Market once stood.

The store will be the grocer’s fifth location in Illinois and brings with it the redevelopment of the Eagle Crest Plaza shopping center.

To redevelop the 7.3-acre plaza, a project that’s been in the works since 2022, some variances from current zoning and land use restrictions are being requested and will be considered Wednesday by the commission.

Should city planners endorse them, the matter will move on to the Naperville City Council for final approval.

Heinen’s is seeking to rezone the site from neighborhood convenience shopping center district to office, commercial and institutional district. In addition, the grocer also is requesting a conditional use permit for general retail.

City staff are supportive of both requests — with a few conditions, according to meeting documents. Those include maintenance of permanent open space along Pembroke Road, construction of a sound barrier and sound absorbing panels along property lines, and adherence to certain delivery and garbage pick-up hours, among a few other stipulations.

Heinen’s wants to build a 50,422-square-foot grocery store with a 227-space parking lot. Existing infrastructure at Eagle Crest Plaza will be removed as part of the company’s planned improvements.

“We’re kind of starting from scratch,” president Jeff Heinen said by phone Tuesday. “We’re tearing down (the existing shopping center) and starting from scratch.”

Apart from Butera, Eagle Crest Plaza was once home to a handful of other businesses, including a travel agency, a martial arts studio and most notably, Pepe’s Mexican Restaurant. None of those businesses will be part of the new development.

Pepe’s closed earlier this year, shutting its longtime 1270 E. Chicago Ave. location after 46 years. Its owners, Matt Rocush, Sandy Rocush and Rod Peterson, are planning a bar-only business to be called “The Can” at 634 E. Ogden Ave., where Miss Kitty’s Saloon used to be.

Matt Rocush said Tuesday they are hoping to open later this month. While just a bar right now, they hope to add a kitchen at some point, he said.

While being forced to leave Eagle Crest remains a sore spot, Rocush said, “We’re excited to move on and turn a new page.”

As for the grocery store, Heinen said they are hoping approval and construction will not take more than a year and the business can open sometime in summer 2025.

“We’re just going along with the process,” Heinen said.

So far, the project has been in the works for nearly two years.

Heinen’s initially went before city leaders with its redevelopment aspirations in August 2022. From the start, the idea was to breathe new life into Eagle Crest Plaza, which due to years of neglect and deterioration by rainwater detention made the neighborhood shopping center blighted. Beyond building out a new store, Heinen’s plans to raise the plaza’s lot and provide stormwater storage beneath it.

To help pay for the stormwater improvements, the Naperville City Council approved the creation of an Eagle Crest business district, allowing the city to collect an extra half-percent sales tax from purchases made at the strip mall.

The tax went into effect on July 1, 2023, according to Adam Beaver, a community planner for Naperville’s Transportation, Engineering and Development department. The city has been collecting revenue from the tax but reimbursement to Heinen’s will not start until redevelopment work begins.

Beyond the zoning approvals, Beaver said Heinen’s has submitted final engineering plans and a stormwater report for city review.

“(Staff) will be working closely with the Heinen’s team on finalizing all city required items prior to release of permits to allow construction to begin,” he said.

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