Renovation planned for shopping center


A vacant 37,000-square-foot shopping center at Foster Avenue and Northwest Highway will be renovated as part of a plan to open an immediate care medical facility there, according to Alderman John Arena (45th).

"We’re very elated to have something going in there," Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh said. "We’ve been working with the developer for 18 months, 2 years. It’s a very prominent corner."

When Gladstone Plaza opened at 5226-28 N. Northwest Hwy. about 25 years ago, tenants included Nancy’s Pizza, a Goodyear auto service center and a Subway restaurant, but the center has been mostly vacant the last 10 years.

"For something that is at such a busy intersection, it is certainly an eyesore," Brugh said.

The City of Chicago went to court in 2010 in an effort to get improvements made to a former Popeye’s Chicken restaurant on the site that had been damaged in a fire. The restaurant was in a stand-alone building at the south end of the site and had a drive-through facility. The rest of the center is located along the railroad embankment at the west end of the property.

Brugh said that the difficulty of making left turns into and out of the plaza may have deterred some potential tenants. Traffic often backs up in front of the center, blocking the driveways.

Projects officials looked into securing easement rights from the neighboring BP Amoco gas station at Northwest Highway and Central Avenue, but the configuration of the gas pumps and a car wash on that property make it difficult to link the two parcels with shared access, Brugh said.

Given the access issues, a medical facility is a good fit for the site because it is not expected to generate as much traffic as a fast-food restaurant, Brugh said. The M1-2 zoning of the site, which is intended primarily for manufacturing uses, permits medical offices, restaurants and a variety of retail uses.

Plans call for all of the storefronts to be renovated and for landscaping upgrades to be made along Northwest Highway and in the center’s parking lot. The medical center will occupy most of the center’s storefront space, while the former Popeye’s building remains for lease and is not being redeveloped as part of the project.

Improvements also will be made to the 54-foot-tall plaza sign on the site, which is visible from the nearby Kennedy Expressway, Brugh said. It is doubtful that a permit for a new sign that tall could be obtained now, given the current trend toward smaller signs, he said.

The former Popeye’s building was considered for a Mexican restaurant two years ago, but the project never materialized. In addition, in April the city issued a construction permit to allow the decommissioning of a cell phone tower on the property.