WILMETTE – The Carson’s department store located in Wilmette’s Edens Plaza will remain open for now, notwithstanding parent company Bon-Ton Stores’s announcement on February 4 that it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Bon-Ton, which owns various department store brands in addition to Carson’s, including Boston Store, Elder-Beerman and Younkers, plans to close 47 of its 260 stores across the country in early 2018. Seven stores in Illinois are slated to close, including the Carson’s located at Riverside Plaza in Chicago and the Streets of Woodfield mall in Schaumberg, as well as the Carson’s Clearance Center at Village Plaza in Morton Grove.
While the Wilmette store appears to have dodged this round of closings, village officials are keeping their eye on Edens Plaza. The plaza is owned by Joseph Freed Associates, LLC, a privately held real estate company that has had its own share of problems in the last year. Its president, Larry Freed, was convicted of fraud and sentenced to three years in federal prison in August 2017.
Village officials are aware of Bon-Ton’s bankruptcy filing, and have spoken to Freed Associates over the past several years about potential reuse of that portion of the plaza, Timothy Frenzer, Village Manager of Wilmette, told DailyNorthShore.com.
“The Village has proactively engaged with Freed to discuss not only the current status of the center but its future plans to ensure a vibrant and thriving commercial center,” Frenzer said.
Freed Associates does not own the portion of Edens Plaza that includes Carson’s and its adjacent parking lot — those are owned by Bon-Ton — and how much control Freed Associates has over the store footprint depends on its contract with Bon-Ton, Frenzer said. Freed Associates could not be reached for comment.
While Frenzer said Edens Plaza “generates significant sales tax revenue,” state law and IDOR policies prohibit village officials from disclosing specific amounts. Wilmette receives 1% of the 6.25% sales tax imposed by the state, as well as a 1% home rule sales tax imposed by the village, according to Frenzer.
While the future remains uncertain for Carson’s in a retail environment rife with uncertainty, village officials remain confident that options exist to keep Edens Plaza vibrant if the store were to close. For example, when Borders and subsequently Sports Authority closed their storefronts in Edens Plaza, ultimately to be replaced by Walgreens, those changes resulted in no material difference in sales tax revenue for the village, Frenzer said.