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Sycamore Plan Commission to hear proposal for Browns' Country Market space

Store empty since 2013, could see storage biz and coffee shop

SYCAMORE – A developer has new plans for the long-vacant space on Sycamore’s east side where Browns’ County Market once operated.

The city’s Plan Commission will hear a proposal Monday evening to redevelop the former site of the longtime local grocery at 403 E. State St., records show.

The city has been looking to redevelop the site, now occupied only by a Family Dollar store, since Browns’ closed in 2013.

“It’s encouraging that someone wants to move in there,” 1st Ward Alderman David Stouffer said. “Sitting there vacant is not doing anything for the neighborhood.”

Stouffer said retail would be the ideal business to move in, but development in the area is going away from that.

The proposal from Douglas Olson, principal for Franklin Developments, would keep the Family Dollar portion of the property the same.

The southwest corner of the building, which features a clock tower and brick facade, would be converted into a coffeeshop-style retail space. Meanwhile, a climate-controlled self-storage space would occupy the old market space, with a store to support the storage business.

“Franklin Development Trust Inc. is interested in purchasing the former Browns’ building at 403 E. State from the financial institution that took over the property in June 2013 after Browns’ County Market filed for bankruptcy,” according to the agenda for the meeting.

The total initial investment would be about $1.9 million, records show.

City officials have had discussions with people and businesses interested in redeveloping the space over the past five years, according to the agenda, but none of the concepts have been feasible or compatible with city land-use plans.

The proposal faces some obstacles. The current zoning for the site does not allow for a storage business, but that could be remedied with a special use permit for the site.

The building also does not face State Street, but faces west and isn’t easily seen by westbound traffic on State. The roof, parking lot and facade of the building also need repairs, according to city documents.

The building was built in the 1990s, according to city documents, and mostly occupied by Browns’ County Market until 2012, when space was leased to Family Dollar. After Browns’ closed, other tenants – a bank and post office – left the space as well.

It currently is zoned as central business district, the same designation as downtown Sycamore.

The parking lot has more than enough spaces to accommodate the redevelopment proposal, and could allow space for further development on the property in the future, according to city documents, although that possibility is not part of the proposal.

The Plan Commission meets at
7 p.m. Monday in the Council Chambers at the Sycamore Center, 308 W. State St.

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