News - Joliet and Will County

Former Joliet Sears store at the mall could become car dealership

Ghaben Auto Group reported to be buyer

The Sears store at Louis Joliet Mall reportedly has been sold to a suburban auto group.

The plan for the Joliet site, however, has not been settled, and could include residential development as well as auto sales, a city official said Wednesday.

The sale of the Sears property to the Ghaben Auto Group was reported this week by The Real Deal, a real estate news outlet. The Ghaben group owns three Ultimo Motors dealerships in the suburbs.

The sale involves 16.7 acres, including the Sears building, which had a large auto service center, and surrounding parking. The property was sold for $4.3 million, according to the Will County Recorder of Deeds Office.

City officials were aware the Ghaben group’s interest in the site, and they were not the only prospective buyer, Mayor Bob O’Dekirk said Wednesday.

“They were really motivated,” O’Dekirk said of the Ghaben group.

The city is happy to see the property put back to use, and car dealers “are significant tax revenue generators,” the mayor said.

“It’s interesting that this is the second high-end car dealership coming to the city,” he said.

The Ultimo Motors website emphasizes inventory that includes Porsche, BMW and Jaguar vehicles at its dealerships in Northbrook, Warrenville and Westmont.

Another used-vehicle dealer with an emphasis on high-end vehicles, Rehan Motors, last year acquired the former Gander Mountain store, located on the other side of Route 30 from the Louis Joliet Mall, for a new dealership.

The Ghaben Auto Group’s plan for the Sears property, however, has not been finalized, said Joliet Economic Development Director Cesar Suarez.

Suarez said the former owner of the property, Seritage Growth Properties, was in discussion with the city for potential residential redevelopment of the Sears store, and the Ghaben group has not ruled out that possibility.

Indoor malls have turned to innovative development plans because of shopping trends that have eroded their former prominence as retail meccas. The Louis Joliet Mall retains a high occupancy rate with the exception of the exit of two former anchors – Sears and Carson Pirie Scott.

The Sears store closed in January 2019.

The Ghaben Auto Group is headed by Joe Ghaben, who could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Suarez said he does not believe that Ghaben has settled on a specific plan for the entire Sears property and has left open the option of residential development as well as another auto dealership.

“He can do one or the other or both,” Suarez said. “We’re just happy to see it in the hands of someone who’s going to do something with it.”

The Sears property is large at 16.7 acres. By comparison, the Rehan Motors site, which also includes a big building and large parking lot, is 7 acres.

The Sears property like the other anchor stores is owned separately from the mall.

The Will County Recorder of Deeds Office confirmed that a sale of the property by Seritage was recorded on Dec. 28. The buyer was listed as Harlem Mall Loop TIC, LLC, which may have been an entity created for the real estate transaction.