By Dawn Rhodes, Chicago Tribune reporter

The former site of Home Depot at 1021 Butterfield Road is being targeted by Art Van Furniture, which inked an incentive deal with the village to located in town. (Dawn Rhodes, Chicago Tribune)

Art Van Furniture is poised to call Downers Grove home, as the village council signed off on a tax-incentive agreement to bring the Michigan-based chain to town.

The council voted unanimously at its Nov. 12 meeting to allow Art Van to open at 1021 Butterfield Road, a sprawling location off Interstate 88 that was previously the site of a Home Depot Expo Center.

The 100,000-square-foot building next to the PGA Tour Superstore has been vacant for more than four years, village officials said.

“Leasing this building has proved difficult,” said Michael Cassa, president of the Downers Grove Economic Development Corporation. “The size of the building and the fact that most of the retail sales area is on the second floor makes it suitable only for certain types of retail uses, such as furniture stores.”
Purchasing and remodeling the building is expected to cost Art Van around $3.2 million, officials said. Under the contract, the village agrees to rebate 50 percent of the local and of the home rule sales tax revenue generated by the property for 15 years, or until payments reach $3.2 million, according to the contract.

Officials are projecting that Art Van will generate $150,000 in sales tax revenue annually, and $2.25 million over 15 years.

“If sales tax isn’t generated, there’s nothing to rebate,” Mayor Martin T. Tully said. “We’re not giving up anything that we would have had absent of this agreement in the first place.”

The village also will consider creating a special district, allowing Art Van to up their sales tax by .5 percent. That extra revenue would be rebated in full and applied to the expenses of developing the property, Cassa said.

“Without an incentive agreement, Art Van is not able to absorb the extraordinary costs of the renovation, costs which would not be required for other sites that are available to them,” Cassa said.

Mike Zambricki, Art Van vice president and general counsel, said company officials initially were reticent to pursue the Butterfield Road site because they thought it was too large and on two levels.

“This is a very unusual store for us,” said Zambricki. “Our standard store is one story. It is very difficult, and there are a lot of costs with totally revamping the store to get it to work.”

But the Art Van team came around once they worked out the building plans, Zambricki said.

“We do want to be a member of this community; we think we can make it work,” Zambricki said. “We’re hoping you’ll see the genius behind this game plan.”

The village will retain 25 percent of the rebate if Art Van fails to operate the store in line with the terms, which also require Art Van to stay at the Butterfield Road location for at least 20 years.
The village has inked similar incentive deals to bring major car dealerships to town, mostly along Ogden Avenue. Officials have long said the arrangements are necessary to persuade major businesses to locate in Downers Grove.

“I think that this is a great opportunity for the Village of Downers Grove,” Commissioner Becky Rheingten said. “If we don’t take advantage of it, I’m sure our neighboring communities would love to scoop it up.”
Art Van currently has four locations in the Chicago area, in Batavia, Orland Park, Bedford Park and in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood. A Woodridge location is also planned, according to the company website.

Village officials said they were pleased to see some action on the Butterfield Road site, noting that Home Depot still retains an active lease on the building that does not expire until 2022.
“There is a strong possibility that the building could remain vacant for eight more years,” Cassa said. “This is an outcome that nobody wants.”

“This deal is going to reinvigorate Downers Grove, especially in that corridor,” Commissioner Geoff Neustadt said.

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