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3) Suburban retailers are thinking twice.

Chicago Retail

If a restaurant lease in the ‘burbs misses the mark, someone will lose their job, Terra Firma Retail Real Estate managing principal Scott Janos (just back from hiking around Nasvhille, though the family shot above is from last summer in Vail) says, while a high-density spot in the city will have people tripping over your location no matter what. (True, but your suburban location gets that sweet, sweet post-soccer game business.) Suburban retail is a street fight for economically sound, second-gen, urban infill properties and conversions, he tells us. Markets like Bolingbrook, Romeoville, Schaumburg, and Oak Brook are on fire, with significant growth from fast-casual restaurants like Chili’s, Red Robin, and IHOP (Scott just did land deals for the pancake purveyor in Bolingbrook and New Lenox).


Restaurant tenants are gravitating toward splashy new projects (like Cooper’s Hawk going in next to a new Mariano’s in Oak Lawn), Scott says. And since nobody’s building malls, one-acre pad sites are the name of the game (insta-traffic for the retailer and extra cash flow for the developer). “Everyone’s trying to do another Advance Auto or O’Reilly,” he adds, but restaurants are the most recession-proof and easily replaceable. Fashion’s taken a beating in the ‘burbs (besides some big deals in Naperville Promenade), and the rest is service retail. Scott’s seen some interesting conversions across B and C properties, like a restaurant-turned-dialysis clinic and a Circuit City that’s now a Savers.