Ald. Arena sets meeting on 6 Corners plan




by BRIAN NADIG

Two development projects which would bring about 171,000 square feet of retail space, including a Binny’s Beverage Depot, an Elly’s Pancake House and a Culver’s restaurant, to the Six Corners commercial district appear to be moving forward.

Both projects involve the redevelopment of former Bank of America sites, 4747 and 4901 W. Irving Park Road. “We’re well on our way to returning Six Corners to a premier shopping district,” Alderman John Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh said. “The work that we’ve been doing the past 5 years, and the work before that by the Six Corners Association and the community, is really starting to hit a tipping point.”

Plans call for the construction of a one-story retail center with about 100,000 square feet of retail space and a rooftop parking deck for 270 cars at the southeast corner of Milwaukee Avenue and Irving Park Road, where the former bank is expected to be demolished this winter. The center would be built around a smaller branch facility which Bank of America recently had built on the site.

Arena will hold a community meeting on the project at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 17, at the Filament Theater, 4041 N. Milwaukee Ave. The project requires the approval of a planned development ordinance, whose underlying zoning would be B3-2, which would allow for more retail uses than are permitted under the site’s existing B1-1 zoning.

Plans call for the project to meet of the requirements of the “pedestrian street” zoning designation which governs portions of the Six Corners district. It requires new buildings to be constructed within 5 feet of the public sidewalk and parking to be positioned so that it is not readily visible from the main thoroughfare.

One of the project’s key features would be a pedestrian cut-through on the rooftop, Brugh said. The decorative walkway would allow shoppers to walk from Irving Park to Milwaukee without having to backtrack to the intersection, he said.

Elevator access to the rooftop would be available for shoppers, Brugh said. In addition, vehicular access to the rooftop parking and the center’s loading docks would be from Kilpatrick Avenue, which runs along the east side of the parcel.

No tenants for the center have been announced. A master plan which was developed for Six Corners calls for retail space and residential units on the site, but the project’s developer, Clark Street Real Estate, announced in 2014 when it acquired the property that it only want to build retail there.

While no tax increment financing subsidies are planned for Clark Street’s project, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has introduced an ordinance authorizing the allocation of $2 million in TIF funds for the redevelopment of the former bank at the southwest corner of Irving Park and Lamon Avenue.

The redevelopment agreement between the city and the project’s developer, Irving Park Property Holdings LLC, would require that an existing 300-seat theater on the second floor of the former bank be re-opened for local arts and cultural groups to lease and for other community-oriented uses, Brugh said. There also would be office space on the second floor which these organizations could lease, he said.

When he was elected to his first term as alderman in 2011, Arena pledged to preserve the theater, which was once used to show classic films. At the time, he said that the “second floor would drive the project.”

Brugh said that Arena requires that there be a clear-cut public benefit for any TIF allocation, and the $14.1 project may not have qualified for the subsidies without an agreement to save the theater. Efforts are being made to find an operator for the theater, Brugh said.

Plans call for the former bank, which measures about 61,212 square feet, to also house the Binny’s and a fitness center. The property recently was rezoned to accommodate the planned liquor store.

In addition, the project calls for an Elly’s restaurant to open inside an adjoining, one-story building at 4925 W. Irving Park Road and for a Culver’s custard restaurant with a drive-through facility to be built on the site of a former tire shop at 4939 W. Irving Park Road. The drive-through facility would require the Zoning Board of Appeals to approve a special use permit.

Also, an ordinance has been introduced calling for a portion of the alley in the 4900 block of Irving Park to be vacated for the project.

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