The lights are set to go back on at the former Blockbuster Video in Northbrook, where a Dollar Tree store is in the works.
Property owner Jay Heitman told Patch that he signed a contract with Dollar Tree last week, and that demolition has already begun inside. Operating thousands of stores around the country, Dollar Tree is a Virginia-based chain that sells a variety of merchandise for $1 or less.
Northbrook’s new discount store will occupy an 8,000-square-foot site on the northwestern side of Meadow Plaza that was vacated by Blockbuster Video about two years ago. Heitman also owns the former Walgreens site next door, which still remains empty. Walgreens has paid its lease through 2024.
In the past, community members have criticized Meadow Plaza for its vacancies and suggested they may be related to the long-term leases both Walgreens and Blockbuster signed. That issue came up often during a five-month community planning process to create a new plan for downtown development in Northbrook.
““It could be a terrific public space,” resident Todd Speed said at a public input meeting in October 2011. “At the moment, it’s something bordering on neglect.”
During a Jan. 31, 2012, meeting of the steering committee that oversaw draft plan for downtown development, committee member Carolyn Ferber suggested that the village should investigate any roadblocks to eminent domain, while member Amy Kurson asked whether the village could revise zoning codes in an area to make certain property owners so uncomfortable that they would want to sell.
“What I’m asking for is a layout from legal and planning if you want to wallop a recalcitrant landowner over the head,” she said.
Heitman told Patch that selling a space as big as the former Walgreens store is difficult, and that the tough economic climate doesn’t help. He also said he saw vacancies everywhere now, even in communities as wealthy as Winnetka and Wilmette.
“I drive through towns all over and when I see dark spots, I care about those towns,” he said. Heitman said he was still searching for a tenant for the former Walgreens space.
Next door, however, a building permit is posted in the window and a forklift and wooden pallets show signs of life inside.
“It was a black hole before,” Heitman said. “Is it a black hole now?”