Economic development feels like it's taking two steps forward and one step back in Naperville, Mayor Steve Chirico said.
Forward: Two big-box vacancies soon could be filled, one after it was bought by an investor and another after it was leased by a grocer.
Back: The Sam's Club at 808 S. Route 59 is one of six across the suburbs and 63 nationwide that will close effective Jan. 22.
The Sam's Club closing is "bad news, obviously," Chirico said, because it had been drawing shoppers displaced by the closing last June of a Sam's in nearby Woodridge.
The closing is also concerning, he said, because it means a potential loss of sales taxes at a time when the city needs to increase revenue or cut expenses by $2.1 million to avoid a property tax increase.
But Chirico said he was encouraged to hear about businesses that could fill two longtime vacancies at large stores -- one of them right next to the soon-to-be-closed Sam's.
The former Walmart at 776 S. Route 59 is one of eight "strategic anchors" the city is tracking as part of a set of performance management goals set roughly a year ago. The space has been empty for about four years, since Walmart opened a new, larger store at 2552 W. 75th St.
The goal with the "strategic anchors" is to fill two of them by December 2019.
The city is halfway there, after Chervon, a tool company, moved early last year into an office at 1203 E. Warrenville Road that was built but never occupied by Swedish manufacturer SKF Group.
Another of the eight vacancies is in the process of filling, as the Indian grocery chain Patel Brothers is building out the former Menards at 1568 Ogden Ave., which sat dormant for 15 years.
Chirico said news of an investor buying the former Walmart with plans to turn the property into a multiuse center could help meet or exceed the vacancy-filling goal.
"Getting that one off the market was great news," he said.
Although the other economic positive Chirico learned of recently does not affect the "strategic anchor"-filling goal, it will bring another grocery option to south Naperville.
Chirico said Aldi recently leased an empty storefront in the Naperville Crossings development at Route 59 and 95th Street, which was approved to be built for The Fresh Market in 2015. The store never occupied the space.
Aldi Dwight Division Vice President Heather Moore said the new store at 2708 Showplace Drive is scheduled to open midyear.
Aldi's presence in south Naperville will be "another good offset" to the closing of Sam's Club, Chirico said.
"People will have to change their buying habits," he said. "We'll just have to see how that plays out."