Will the new West Loop Mariano’s raise nearby condo prices?

Within the past week two of Chicago’s more successful Realtors, both Prudential Rubloff agents, called my attention to the new West Loop Mariano’s.

Christine Hancock, who lives in the West Loop, suggested a need for “a twelve-step program to overcome” her developing addiction to Mariano’s. Francesca Rose emailed that she found herself eating regularly at Mariano’s while servicing a nearby listing: “they will grill anything from the butcher to eat there or take home. I had a cheddar chipotle burger and bought a bun from the bakery for 39 cents. The Vero gelato and coffee are addictive. Having 5-items-or-less checkout stations throughout the store is just genius. I heard Dominick’s is deserted.”

I stopped by at about 1 o’clock on Tuesday afternoon, and it was easy to see that Mariano’s was drawing a crowd and generating a lot of excitement. There were hundreds of people in the store, most of them clustered around an extensive array of ready-to-eat and made-to-order counters and specialty food and drink bars. The Wi-Fi-equipped lounges were packed. I’m not one to pay close attention to prices, but my superficial impression was that Mariano’s were at least competitive and, for some items, surprisingly low. If I lived or worked in the area, there’s little doubt I’d be dining at or from Mariano’s several times a week.

Having Mariano’s close by would, at first blush, appear to add value to nearby condos and apartments. That judgment might be too hasty. Mariano’s just might have a “Wal-Mart effect” on nearby restaurants and take-out dining venues, crippling or killing enough of them to depress values in the immediate area.

While you’re pondering whatever effect Mariano’s might have, you can scan a few more scenes from the West Loop store: