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Mariano’s CEO tours South Shore sites with local alderman

Roundy's CEO Bob Mariano toured prospective sites for new store South Shore Monday. He was joined by Ald. Leslie Hairst(5th).

Roundy's CEO Bob Mariano toured prospective sites for a new store in South Shore on Monday. He was joined by Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th). | Sun-Times File Photo

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Updated: August 18, 2014 3:18PM

Three months ago, Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said she felt “like I’m living in a part of the city that’s been cordoned off” after Mariano’s unveiled plans to build a new store in Bronzeville while a shuttered Dominick’s in South Shore remained vacant.

On Monday, all was apparently forgiven.

Hairston took Roundy’s CEO Bob Mariano on a two-hour tour of seven prospective construction sites in her ward and Mariano promised get back to the city’s Department of Planning and Development with a decision in a few days.

The shuttered and still vacant Dominick’s store at 71st Street and Jeffrey Boulevard remains Chicago’s only shuttered Dominick’s that has yet to find a replacement grocer.

It still hasn’t. Mariano and Hairston toured that shuttered store on Monday, along with Planning and Development Commissioner Andy Mooney and a real estate consultant hired by the city. But Mariano, who once worked there, rejected it.

Other sites, however, have not been ruled out. In a press release issued after the tour, Hairston noted that she initially had four sites in mind, but expanded the list to seven to “increase the odds” of enticing Mariano. The most attractive sites are located on Stony Island Avenue.

“We looked at property that is owned by the city and privately-owned. What was interesting is to find out that Mariano wants 60,000 sq. ft. for his stores. We also talked about the importance of egress and ingress to site locations,” Hairston was quoted as saying.

“If he decides on a site that is owned by the city, the project could move faster than one that is privately-owned. Sears owns the site from 77th to 79th and Stony Island. The city owns both the 6800 and 6900 blocks.”

Monday’s tour also included a site at 60th and Stony Island.

Monday’s upbeat announcement was a far cry from Hairston’s attack on the day in May Mariano and Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans to build a new Mariano’s store in Bronzeville.

On that day, Hairston said she was so incensed by Emanuel’s failure to go to bat for South Shore — and by what she called Emanuel’s North Side-centric development efforts — she was considering running for mayor. That stance was emboldened by Emanuel’s dismal showing in a Chicago Sun-Times poll.

Emanuel and Mariano held a news conference back then to tout the new store at 39th and King Drive. Construction is expected to start next year on a store will create 400 jobs and “expand access to healthy food options,” it was announced at the time.

That only poured salt on Hairston’s political wound. On that day, the alderman said she had been told that Mariano’s wasn’t interested in the empty grocery store at 71st and Jeffrey Boulevard, but she had not been told why.

“I feel like I’m living in a part of the city that’s been cordoned off. Every day, I drive by the vacant Dominicks’s in Jeffery Plaza and I’m wondering if we’re ever going to get a place to shop,” Hairston said then.

“Bob Mariano needs to meet with my constituents face-to-face and tell us why we’re not good enough for their company to consider moving to our ward. I’ve talked to his people. They have not explained why not. They have just said, `Bob isn’t interested.’ We should be jumping out. I’ve got more population surrounding my Dominick’s than the one at 39th and King.”

In a telephone interview after Monday’s tour, Hairston credited her earlier outburst with lighting a fire under City Hall and Mariano.

“I would not stop. I was persistent. I’m not gonna stop being persistent until I have the kind of ward my constituents deserve with the goods and services they desire and all types of businesses that other thriving communities have,” the alderman said.

“It obviously is a turning point. We actually had a face-to-face meeting and a ward tour.”

Earlier this month, the Emanuel administration awarded a $71,000 contract to D&K Real Estate Service Corp. to perform a “feasibility study and implementation strategy for the South Shore grocery store project.”

But, Hairston’s spokeperson Delmarie Cobb said, “We don’t need a feasibility study. Everybody knows she needs a grocery store. It’s more about developing a presentation [and saying], ‘These are the demographics. This is what sales would be.’ ”

After that May news conference in Bronzeville, Mariano was asked: Why not South Shore?

“It’s not a matter of why not South Shore. We’ve been working on this [Bronzeville store] for well over four years and we’re doing these one at a time. We’ll continue to work for other opportunities throughout the South Side, as the mayor alluded to. We can only do so much at one time,” he said at the time.

Asked point-blank whether he had rejected the 71st and Jeffery site, Mariano said, “We continue to evaluate it.”

That didn’t stop Hairston from accusing the mayor of failing to go to bat for South Shore.

“He should work harder to make sure there is a grocery store in Jeffery Plaza. He needs to put the same type of energy and effort [into that] that he is putting into building a school named after the President from my ward” on the North Side, Hairston said.

It wasn’t the first time that Hairston has unleashed her anger about the shuttered South Shore Dominick’s.

During City Council debate on the partial ban on plastic bags, Hairston said she was tired of focusing on such trivia while her community was “going to hell in a hand basket” because her residents “have to spend bus farr to get to the nearest grocer.”

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