Whole Foods buys gravel parking lot next to Sauganash store, plans to improve with landscaping, community gathering space
by BRIAN NADIG
Whole Foods has purchased the site of a gravel parking lot next to its store at 6020 N. Cicero Ave. that was once targeted for a six-story condominium building.
“It’s our desire to develop it in a multi-use fashion for not only parking for our customers but also a gathering space for the community,” Whole Foods executive construction coordinator Michael Sweatt said at a March 24 meeting of the Sauganash Chamber of Commerce.
Plans call for a covered walkway, landscaping, electrical outlets for farmers’ markets or other community events, and space for seasonal sales, such as Christmas trees. Sweatt said. A second driveway on Cicero would be added at the north end of the parking lot to help relieve the congestion at the existing curb cut near the store’s building, he said.
Several “green” elements, including solar panels for lighting, permeable pavers and
chargers for electric cars, are being considered for the project. “It also would act as a magnet for science classes,” Sweatt said.
Alderman Margaret Laurino (39th) said that she has heard concerns that the store’s existing parking spaces are too narrow and that the new paved lot will feature wider spaces. “On the Northwest Side, everyone is driving an SUV, and we need paces that are a little larger,” she said.
The Whole Foods was constructed at the northwest corner of Cicero and Peterson avenues about 10 years ago as part of a retail-residential development that includes a parking garage and four floors of living units above the grocery store. The developer, Brook-Ridge Development, abandoned the project before building a 75-unit condominium building on the north end of the site, and in 2007 Lakeside Bank filed a foreclosure lawsuit against the developer.
Whole Foods had been leasing the undeveloped lot from the bank for a few years. The company will be seeking to amend the planned development ordinance which governs the site’s zoning to allow for the new parking lot, and it is estimated that it would take up to six months to complete the project.
A previous study concluded that the installation of a traffic signal in front of the development was not warranted, but Whole Foods plans to have a new traffic study conducted, although there are no current plans for a signal, project officials said. Some residents have said that access to and from the lot is difficult due to traffic backups on Cicero.