Sears Says Prairie Stone Is Meeting Expectations

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Byline: Mike Comerford and Diana Wallace Daily Herald staff writers

This year may be a close call for Sears, Roebuck and Co., as it struggles to keep pace with its tax obligations on its headquarters in Hoffman Estates.

But real estate experts say developments already in the works at the sprawling Prairie Stone business park are likely to soon erase any shortfall that could appear this year.

The 826-acre Prairie Stone site was paid for with bonds and deferred tax payments in 1989 when Sears bought the land. But one of the bond issues demands that if property tax revenue to local taxing bodies doesn't meet a given amount, Sears has to pay the shortfall.

In a worst-case scenario that could mean Sears will have to pay $600,000 in extra taxes this year, according to a study conducted for the village last year.

In a best-case scenario, Prairie Stone, west of Route 59 between Route 72 and the Northwest Tollway, will generate a surplus of $300,000, and Sears will be off the hook for another year.

"Our estimates show that we are on target with the pace of development, and we'll be fine," said Paula Davis, a spokeswoman for Sears, adding final numbers will not be known until August or September. "We're pleased with the pace of development."

Indeed, with several developments already in the works at Prairie Stone, an aggressive marketing plan and the ability to undercut other office space rental prices in the area, Sears may not have any trouble meeting its tax obligations in the immediate future.

"When it first opened there was some question as to its exact identity," said Marilyn Lissner, director of suburban office sales for Cushman and Wakefield in Roselle. "But with the marketing in play in the last year or so it has created an identity for the complex. ... I think it is ready for a new cycle of development."

New developments now slated for Prairie Stone include plans for a hotel and an additional 1 million square feet of new office space, each expected in the coming year.

Already under construction at Prairie Stone are buildings to house Renishaw and TransAmerica Corp., as well as a 412,000-square-foot expansion of the Sears offices themselves that is expected to bring the total number of its employees at the site to 5,700.

An estimated 6,341 people work at the office park and that figure could rise to 8,321 by year's end. …