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Nearly 6 Years Later, Dominick's Site Remains Empty

CHICAGO (CBS) -- In 2008, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for a fancy new Dominick's store and upper-bracket condo development in the East Lakeview neighborhood, on the site of an old Dominick's that had burned to the ground three years earlier.

Signs went up in the empty Dominick's lot at 3012 N. Broadway, encouraging prospective buyers to "experience the excellence" of the new "Broadway 3030" development. The condos there were priced from $400,000 to $1.2 million.

Renderings for the development showed a sleek structure with floor-to-ceiling glass windows and long terraces, anchored by the Dominick's on the ground floor.

Just before the groundbreaking, the real estate Web site said the new Dominick's would open in the spring of 2010, with the delivery of the first condo unit to follow later that year.

But 2010 has come and gone now, and there is no Dominick's, nor any condos.

Instead, the site remains a vast, vacant eyesore on a busy and vibrant stretch of Broadway. A bent chain-link fence surrounds the footprint of the old store, as brown weeds shoot more than six feet high out of the concrete.

Meanwhile, the Web site for the Broadway 3030 condo development now displays a message, "Sorry. This website is closed."

The development was stalled in 2009, after the developers of the site defaulted on a mezzanine loan and filed for bankruptcy, according to a Crain's Chicago Real Estate Daily report at the time.

The only recent change to come to the site was a ban on parking in the old Dominick's lot. Motorists in the neighborhood had taken advantage of free parking in the southern part of the empty lot near the Friar Tuck bar, but signs recently went up warning that any unauthorized cars parked in the lot would be towed.

Those signs covered up most of the proud announcements of the planned condo development. But a sign announcing plans for a new Dominick's store still stands near the sidewalk.

So will there be a new Dominick's?

In a statement Friday, Dominick's said it does not currently have a lease on the site.

"We continue to work on a potential development with the new owner of the property who recently acquired the property through the bankruptcy auction," Dominick's said in the statement.

The store declined further comment, and would not specify what a "potential development" means.

Dominick's had a lease on the site as of 2009, according to the Crain's report.

The Crain's report said the developers, Michael O'Connor and Jonathan Zitzman, blamed the credit crunch of the time for the default and bankruptcy.

The Dominick's/Broadway 3030 project also became a headache for Mayor Richard M. Daley's nephew, Robert Vanecko, and his business partner, Allison S. Davis. They invested $7.9 million in pension funds in the project, and ended up feuding with the developers and trying to find people to buy them out, according to past published reports.

The old Dominick's at the site, which dated back to 1971, was destroyed by a 4-11 alarm fire that broke out on Father's Day 2005. The blaze left one person slightly injured, and sent up a plume of thick smoke that could be seen for miles.

Since then, grocery shoppers have had to make the trek to other neighborhood grocery outlets such as the Market Place, 521 W. Diversey Pkwy.; Treasure Island, 3460 N. Broadway; and the Jewel store at 3531 N. Broadway. A Trader Joe's is also set to open in the spring at 667 W. Diversey Pkwy.

In recent months, a controversy has erupted over rumored plans to bring a Wal-Mart that would sell groceries into the Broadway at Surf retail complex a couple of blocks south of the old Dominick's site. Those plans have been the subject of little discussion since they caused a community outrage in December, but they are expected to be discussed at a meeting of the South East Lake View Neighbors Association, planned for 7 p.m. Monday at the Wellington Avenue Church, 615 W. Wellington Ave.

Adam Harrington, The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to to this report.

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