Skokie will still be down one hearty-eating deli or otherwise full-service restaurant a while longer due to the need to upgrade the vacant Barnum and Bagel building on Dempster Street near Skokie Boulevard.
Terraco Inc., the property’s owner, has fielded steady inquiries from prospective occupants about the 6,876-square-foot building that occupies 33,000 square feet of property. The Barnum and Bagel sign still stands as a reminder of past culinary feats.
Getting a table on a Friday or Saturday night at Barnum and Bagel to savor matzoh-ball soup, kishke and brisket at its peak several decades ago required a wait unless the diner arrived by 5:30 p.m. But the local institution declined quickly a half-decade ago when new owners took over. The deli-restaurant closed in 2007 – just before the economy nosedived amid the wrecked real estate market.
To assist in structural repairs of the property, quickly obtaining tax increment financing (TIF) money targeted for the severely sagging Skokie Swift business district along Dempster may depend upon a firm commitment from an occupant.
Arnie Blake, retail leasing manager for Terraco, estimates the building might need up to $700,000 in improvements to “bring it up to snuff." He noted that "the condition of the building is a deterrent” to finding a new tenant.
The building is 40 years old and deterioration afflicts the entire structure, with old equipment on the inside needing replacement.
Still, the property is in a “premiere” location near the busy crossroad of Dempster Street and Skokie Boulevard, said Blake. That’s why he claims he has fielded “extreme interest” from possible tenants.
“We’ve had interests from restaurants, a day-care facility, dance studios, banks, car washes,” Blake said. “We must’ve shown the space to 10 different users [over the] last two months.”
Oberweis Dairy, soon to open a new outlet on a former car repair shop property on the southwest corner of Dempster Street and Skokie Boulevard, rejected the Barnum and Bagel building as too big for its needs.
Blake and Terraco have been in constant touch with Tom Thompson, the village’s economic development coordinator.
“The village hasn’t given me a number,” he said. “They’d love to see a restaurateur or sharp retailer in there.”
From Thompson’s viewpoint, a more specific user of the building would move things forward more quickly.
“Generally, you’re investing in buildings in the downtown area with a tenant or user in mind,” he said. “It’s really hard to say at this point how much we might put into it. I appreciate that Arnie has a tough sell. I’ve been through it. Anytime a building is vacant for 4-5 years, it’s tougher.
“We have done exterior [repairs] via a TIF in other buildings. It can happen very quickly. If he has an interested prospective tenant and a cost in mind, then we can get together,” Thompson said.
Although Blake’s list of potential tenants ranges far from the dining field, Thompson thinks the building is best-suited as a restaurant.
Blake said a tear-down of the existing structure, depending on the tenant or purchaser’s needs, also is possible.