Sears’ departure from the Louis Joliet Mall marks another big-box vacancy created by the collapse of what was one of the area’s prominent retailers.
There only was one Sears store in the Joliet area, and it closed Sunday.
But Sears Holdings also includes Kmart, and two Kmarts that closed in late 2016 have not been filled – one in Joliet, and another in New Lenox.
The sizes of the stores creates big vacancies to fill. But other closed Kmart stores in Will County have been replaced by popular retailers. And, if there’s hope for the more recently closed stores, it may be that they are in prime locations.
“It’s great real estate,” New Lenox Mayor Tim Baldermann said of the vacant Kmart store there.
The closed Kmart is just off of Interstate 80 at the Route 30 interchange.
Baldermann said developers have shown some interest. But the property appears to be tied up in Sears’ ongoing troubles.
“There are a couple of developers that are interested in that location,” Baldermann said. “I know they have had an issue getting a response from the owners.”
Likewise, the former Kmart in Joliet, at Jefferson Street and Larkin Avenue, has been vacant for more than two years.
Joliet economic development director Steve Jones said potential developers were unable to make progress while Sears Holdings still held the lease on the property. But that lease ended in October, and Jones believes developers will come back for another look.
“This is the most traveled intersection in the whole city. That’s got to be an attraction to developers,” Jones said.
Meanwhile, there has been interest in the Sears store at the mall.
Jones said city staff has heard from potential developers interested in zoning restrictions for Sears and the vacant Carson’s store, another mall anchor that closed in August.
“Within the last three weeks, I’ve had communications with both brokers and developers with questions about the Sears and Carson’s space,” he said.
Mall management has said anchor stores may not be replaced by new anchor stores. They may not even be replaced by stores, since malls have converted empty anchor spaces to medical offices, apartments and other uses amid an upheaval in the retail industry.
Starwood Retail Partners, which owns the Louis Joliet Mall, does not own the anchor store spaces, including Sears, so ownership issues could be a factor in redeveloping the Sears space.
Although more recently closed Kmart spaces still are vacant, other locations have been put to use with stores that have proved popular.
In Lockport, a Kmart on Summit Drive closed long before the company’s recent troubles and since has been replaced by Big Lots and Advance Auto Parts stores.
In Homer Glen, Big R Stores, a chain of farm- and- ranch-style stores with a variety of merchandise, replaced the Kmart that closed on Bell Road.
“This was a really good recruitment for us,” Homer Glen Economic Development Director Janie Patch said. She called Big R “a great fit” for Homer Glen and said she is glad the village has moved past the Sears Holdings troubles.
“We’re very happy not to be part of what’s going on with the balance of those stores,” Patch said.