An Amazon Fresh store planned for Tinley Park won’t open until sometime next year, according to an executive with the company that owns the shopping center where the store is supposed to locate.
The village and Amazon announced plans in summer 2022 for the store. At the time, the village said it expected the store to open by later in the year, although Amazon would not confirm an opening timetable.
Signs on the building, 16017 S. Harlem Ave., late last year indicated a spring opening for this year, and a large Amazon Fresh sign was put up on the exterior of the building above the entrance, but taken down several months ago.
The topic of whether and when Amazon might open came up at a recent Tinley Park Plan Commission meeting, where members discussed plans for the second phase of renovations at Tinley Park Plaza. A space of about 38,000 square feet was built for the Amazon store during the initial phase of work at the plaza, southeast of 159th Street and Harlem and owned by Brixmor Property Group.
Commission Chairman Garrett Gray asked Andrew Balzer, Brixmor’s director of redevelopment, if he had an update regarding Amazon, and Balzer said the most recent information indicates an opening in 2024 but “we don’t know when.”
An Amazon spokeswoman said the company could not offer any specifics about Fresh store openings, including Tinley Park.
Pat Carr, Tinley Park’s village manager, confirmed Amazon told the village an opening sometime next year, but nothing more definite.
“The grocer was obviously the catalyst that helped us kick things off” with the initial phase of the shopping center’s redevelopment, Balzer told commission members. “It’s really unforeseen that they didn’t open.”
“We’re making a significant investment” in the Amazon space, he said, calling it “a really unusual situation.”
“It’s bad to have unused occupancy of any new building,” Gray said.
The second phase of the redevelopment was recommended for approval and is expected to considered by the Village Board Tuesday.
Tenants in Tinley Park Plaza include Burlington, Bath & Body Works, Planet Fitness and The Tile Shop. Burlington relocated from space on the south side of 159th east of Harlem, and Floor & Decor moved into that spot.
Grocer Walt’s had operated in a large anchor space in the portion of the shopping center next in line for work. It had been a tenant since 1984 and closed in June 2021.
During an earnings call in February with analysts, Amazon Chief Executive Andy Jassy discussed business segments, including groceries and Fresh stores.
He said the company is “doing a fair bit of experimentation today in those stores to try to find a format that we think resonates with customers.”
“We’ve decided over the last year or so that we’re not going to expand the physical Fresh doors until we have that equation with differentiation and economic value that we like, but we’re optimistic we’re going to find that in 2023,” Jassy said.
“We’re working hard at it. We see some encouraging signs, and when we do find that equation we will expand it more expansively,” he told analysts.
Fresh Stores represent Amazon’s biggest foray into physical retail space since buying Whole Foods in 2017.
There is an Amazon Fresh store in Oak Lawn and other stores are in suburbs including Bloomingdale, Naperville and Schaumburg.
Amazon had removed the large Amazon Fresh logo sign outside the store because “they didn’t want confusion in the market” and customers thinking the store was ready for customers, Balzer said after the Aug. 17 meeting.
While he told the Plan Commission Amazon was the “catalyst” that would draw other tenants to the shopping center, Balzer said in a follow-up interview that Amazon’s absence hasn’t so far hurt efforts to attract other businesses.
“The improvements we have made to the center have really driven the momentum,” he said.
However, any “sustained vacancy” in what is an anchor spot in the center could affect leasing efforts, he said.
Brixmor also owns retail centers Commons of Chicago Ridge near Chicago Ridge Mall, Rivercrest Center in Crestwood and Ravinia Plaza in Orland Park.