Heinen’s grocery proposal at former Eagle Crest site in Naperville advances   

Heinen's Grocery Store building rendering by architect
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The blighted Eagle Crest Shopping Plaza on Naperville’s east side could soon meet the bulldozer as a family-owned, Ohio-based grocer’s plans for the property move through the city’s review channels.

Nearly two years ago, Heinen’s Grocery Store announced its plans of purchasing the 7.31-acre lot in the 1200 block of East Chicago Avenue. Another grocer, Butera Market, had anchored the plaza before shuttering.

After a series of reviews and discussions, Heinen’s plans are taking center stage this summer as city officials are considering issuing a conditional-use permit that would address concerns some nearby residents have raised — most notably, noise.              

A look inside Heinen’s    

According to the company website, Heinen’s roots stretch back 95 years ago when Joe Heinen, an Ohio butcher decided to open a store in the Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights. The Cleveland area has been Heinen’s home base from the get-go.

Currently, the company has 23 stores, meaning Naperville would make an even dozen for the chain. Nineteen of the stores are in Ohio, and four are in Illinois. Heinen’s entry into the Chicago area began in 2012 with the opening of a store in Barrington.  

“We’re a small company, for our industry, and we do not open new stores very often, as we, as a company, strive to be better, not bigger,” Jeff Heinen, a third-generation family member who helms the operation with brother Tom Heinen, explained at Naperville’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on Wednesday, June 5

In explaining the retailer’s business philosophy, Heinen told commissioners, “We are a neighborhood store, meaning that our draw radius is about 4 miles, as opposed to a lot of other stores that draw from a much wider area.”

Neighbors share concerns, but welcome Heinen’s 

At the recent commissioners’ meeting, multiple residents along Pembroke Road shared several concerns and sought assurances the newly constructed 45,478-square-foot store would have measures in place to buffer sound and light.

Jay Albrecht, who has lived in the area with wife Marita Albrecht since the early 1980s, said he is familiar with having a grocer abut his property, citing Butera and preceding tenants. Albrecht, who said he is looking forward to having another grocer so close to home, did take aim at one component of the new building — the placement of loading docks.

“There’s only residential homes on one side of the property, and they’ve chosen to put the worst part of the building as close as possible to the homes, and to the park,” Albrecht said, referring to the loading docks.  

Albrecht, who worked at a grocery store earlier in his life, said, “I can tell you a grocery store loading dock is not a pretty place. It’s noisy, it’s smelly, it’s animal infested — that’s the nature of a grocery store loading dock. It’s out my front door in this new plan.”

Fellow neighbor Michael Kennedy shared similar comments with commissioners: “We welcome Heinen’s, and Jeff. We think he’s going to be a good neighbor. He’d be a great neighbor if he’d turn the building around.”

Heinen’s representatives had met with neighbors in advance of presenting the formal petition to city officials for approval. 

As an outgrowth of the conversations, an existing berm and vegetation along the Pembroke Road property line will remain intact — a deviation from the prior proposal that called for its removal. The company also is increasing the distance between its west façade and the Pembroke Road property line.

City staff put several conditions in the permit

Community Planner Adam Beaver outlined several of the conditions that will be included in the Heinen’s permit, based on the current proposal, one being a sound barrier of 8 to 12 feet in height on the south side of the property, as well as sound absorbing panels on the south wall of the building, near the loading docks.

“If, following installation of the sound wall and/or sound absorbing panels, the subject property results in the generation of any continuous and sustained noise at the property lines … the petitioner shall be required to take further steps to mitigate said noise to bring it into compliance with code allowances,” Beaver said. 

The city also has put in place a limit on truck loading dock hours, only permitting them from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

Heinen said the hours mesh with the company’s business plan, which is to operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekends. Staff does not work overnight hours, he said.

The Planning and Zoning Commission gave a favorable recommendation to Heinen’s permit. The city council will have a final say on the proposal at an upcoming meeting.

Image courtesy: AoDK Architecture, Heinen’s Grocery Store

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