Tinley Park could be offering Menard’s a $1 million incentive package to purchase the current home of the SouthtownStar newspaper.
Menard's intends to convert the two-story former department store that houses the newspaper into a garden center and lumber yard extension. The expansion would result in the biggest Menard's in the country, according to company officials.
Aaron Morrissey, Menard’s real estate representative, said the home improvement store has come to a purchase agreement with the Sun-Times Media Company, which owns the building at 6901 W. 159th St., but he would not comment on a timeline for moving into the space. Morrisey attended Tuesday night's economic development committee meeting where the incentive plan was approved. No one from Sun Times Media or the SouthtownStar attended the meeting.
The incentive plan now goes to the full village board for a possible vote next week.
The building has been listed with Paine Wetzel since February 2009. As recently as November 2010, the asking price was $5.125 million for 9.4 acres of land, which included the 110,000-square-foot building and the 500-car parking lot.
In return for investing $4 million in the expansion, which could provide 15 new jobs for the store on top of 118 employees now working, Menard's is asking Tinley Park for a 50/50 split of the sales tax on new sales. The agreement would last for 10 years, or until Menard’s earned $1 million through the agreement, whichever comes first.
The expansion adds 110,000 square feet to the store’s 250,000 square feet now in use.
A Lot of History on the Property
The shopping complex that now houses Menard's and the SouthtownStar office was built in 1973 as the Brementown Mall. The old Bremen Theatre occupied the east-end of the center, where many south suburbanites saw their first movies. On the west end, Gately's Peoples Store anchored the shopping center with a two-story department store. Gately's closed in the early 1990s.
The Daily Southtown and Star Newspapers, which came under common ownership in 1993, moved into the former Gately's Peoples Store building on 159th Street in February of 1997.
For the first time, the Southtown actually had its main office in the heart of its coverage area. The Southtown's main office and printing press had been located at 59th Street and Harlem Avenue on the Chicago's Southwest Side.
The Tinley Park building has undergone several renovations and for many years it was a bustling workplace. For a while, the accounting department for the entire Sun-Times Media Group was housed on the second floor of the building. With the Southtown and Star editorial departments, the advertising and production departments, the circulation department and the financial departments, several hundred people came to work each day in the building. At times, it was difficult to find a parking space.
Hard Times for the SouthtownStar
The Southtown and Star merged in the fall of 2007 as hard times hit the newspaper industry and the Sun-Times Media Group, which owns the newspaper. Circulation collapsed, as did the newspaper's coverage area. In 2009, the owners filed for bankruptcy. Over the last four years, the newspaper has been dramatically cutting staff and expenses.
The building is now mostly empty, and the entire second floor has been closed off.
The newspaper plans to move into a much smaller office space later this year.