Mike Watson (copy)

Bradley Mayor Pro Mike Watson said the purchase of the former Carson’s men’s store “will help the village to be proactive to ignite change.”

BRADLEY — The Bradley Village Board is not looking to get into the retail market, but it is purchasing the former Carson’s men’s store for $1.1 million.

On Monday, the board approved the purchase of the former department store’s approximate 62,000-square-foot space at Northfield Square mall. The store square footage was not owned by the mall owner, Namdar Real Estate, but rather Tower Bourbonais LLC.

Tower, of Woodland, Calif., has owned the property since 2015. It purchased the property for $1.47 million, when Namdar sought buyers for the anchor store properties.

The village administration, led by Mayor Pro Tem Mike Watson, said initial thoughts have targeted a convention center-type development. However, plans for how and what the space will ultimately become will be determined as the village board hired a consulting/development team on Monday.

The team, made up of Ginkgo Planning & Design of Orland Park and SB Friedman Development Advisors of Chicago, was hired for $119,000. The goal is to have a firm concept for the space within six months. A public meeting seeking input will be held.

Watson, who has previously publicly discussed this possible purchase, said retail has evolved and there have been no plans of how the mall could be used to keep it viable.

“The strength of hotels and commercial corridor are at risk," he said the board OK’d this move. "This investment will help the village to be proactive to ignite change.”

The property, opened in August 1990, is located at Interstate 57’s 315 interchange. It has largely been an underperforming retail location and it is now less than 40 percent occupied.

Three of the complexes’ four anchor stores are vacant — the Carson’s men’s store, the Carson’s women’s store and the Sear’s store — have been closed. The only anchor still open is J.C. Penney.

With massive expansions taking place at CSL Behring and Nucor Steel, both within less than a mile of Northfield, the property seems prime for development.

Bradley finance director Rob Romo said the village has few options. “We have to bring vitality to this place. No action would be the worst thing we could do.”

Trustee Bob Redman questioned what impact this purchase would have on taxing bodies, such as the St. George School District, because it will come off the tax rolls as it will be owned by a governmental body.

Village administrator Catherine Wojnarowski said the acquisition puts the village in position to help with mall development. She said the village could sell the property and potentially make money.

“This is an investment. We can determine what should be placed in that location. It’s not our intent to hurt the school district ... but achieve vitality of the mall property,” she said.

She added the CSL and Nucor expansions can be looked at as gifts to Kankakee County. But it is up to the communities to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the huge expansions.

Said Watson: “The exciting expansion of both CSL, Nucor and others are reliant on this. We need to attract a workforce they need that sets roots and makes Bradley and Kankakee County a home. This workforce requires amenities in the region that are currently nonexistent.”

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