Residents voice opinions on Six Corners Starbucks plan




by CYRYL JAKUBOWSKI

Residents at a community meeting were generally in favor of plans to open a Starbucks coffee shop at the northeast corner of Cicero and Berteau avenues, although some were apprehensive about the suburban-style design of the restaurant that features a drive-through that some said would increase traffic congestion in the Six Corners shopping district.

More than 40 residents attended the meeting held by Alderman John Arena (45th) on May 26 at Kilpatrick Renaissance apartments, 4655 W. Berteau Ave.

Scott Goldman of the Baum Revision real estate group said that Starbucks has proposed building a 2,200-square foot restaurant with a drive-through lane that can accommodate about 10 cars and with 15 parking spots.

The site was used as a 20,000-square-foot auxiliary parking lot for the Family Fruit Market store, 4118 N. Cicero Ave., which recently closed. Plans call for the parking lot at 4151 N. Cicero Ave. to be rezoned from RS-3, which is intended for single-family homes and two-flats, to B1-1, which allows a variety of retail uses.

"I’m excited about the proposal," Arena said. "For the last 20 years that I’ve lived here I was told that the only thing that you need is a parking garage and a Starbucks to be successful. I disagree with the first statement and I’m okay with the second because I think that Starbucks is a great component of a successful business district."

Arena said that residents "never agree 100 percent on anything but we get a majority and that’s the way we run this city, this ward and this country. I like to honor that and make sure there is a conversation with what the business community is trying to do and what the community likes to see."

Goldman said that a typical Starbucks is 1,850 square feet in size. He said that the larger shop would have more seating, bicycle racks and a patio.

Goldman said that the plans show both a left turn and a right turn onto Cicero as people exit the site but that he expects the Chicago Department of Transportation like for the lot to have a "right in, right out" entrance and exit. Another entrance would be located on Berteau Avenue because there is a traffic signal at the intersection, but left turns would be prohibited from the parking lot onto Berteau.

"We are sensitive to the fact that Berteau is a residential street, and we don’t want to encourage traffic eastbound beyond the site," Goldman said. "We’ve been working with Starbucks for a long time looking for a site in the ward. The reason this site works so well for them is because they are committed to doing drive-through stores because it’s their business plan.

"A drive-through store is 30 to 40 percent more business than a free-standing store, so it’s just a company-wide initiative to add more drive-troughs," Goldman said. "This site is unique because it has a traffic signal and it’s on a busy street and also has community benefits as well."

Goldman said that a typical Starbucks store generates $1.2 to $2 million a year in revenue and $24,000 to $26,000 in taxes.

A resident who lives east of the site said that he would be affected the most because cars would line near his windows, despite the presence of a fence, and a dumpster would be next to his home. Another resident said that the proximity to the Mayfair Metra train would increase congestion.

Arena said that part of the application process is a more thorough analysis by the transportation department and that the department will make traffic recommendations about how to improve the proposal.

"Clearly congestion is an issue, and rush hour traffic will always be rush hour traffic whether this is here or not," Arena said. "The development gives us an opportunity to revisit these things and let the professionals decide if it is feasible."

Arena said that comparing a McDonald’s restaurant to a Starbucks shop is erroneous because the businesses have different dynamics. He said McDonald’s does 60 to 70 percent of business in its drive-through at all times of the day and that a typical Starbucks does about 40 percent of business in its drive-through, mostly in the mornings.

"Traffic is getting worse and worse on Cicero Avenue," a resident said. "I believe that when you say 40 percent you will be surprised that it will be way higher than that. Everybody is talking about it in the community and wants to stop there on the way to work, and a lot of people will be going through that drive-through and not sitting inside."

Another resident said that she thinks that Starbucks would be a better neighbor if it just had a community cafe. "We have been historic here of making the area welcoming to walkers and pedestrians and bicycles," she said.

Joe Angelastri, the owner of City Newsstand, 4018 N. Cicero Ave., said that he is disappointed that the proposal was not for a traditional Starbucks without a drive-through. The newspaper and magazine stand also features a cafe.

"I’m just disappointed that we’re putting in one of the suburban models," Angelastri said. "This one is a suburban model and I am baffled, because I thought they were going to come into one of the storefronts here. We’ve got plenty of 2,000-square-foot places.

"I’m disappointed and some other businesses are disappointed that we are not going to get the pedestrian flow that you would normally expect. This will be a suburban one . . . where everybody goes by car and nobody walks. It’s probably not going to help out little businesses here on Six Corners like a traditional Starbucks would."

Arena said that different brands of the same service could coexist. "It’s called clustering," he said. "One restaurant will do okay and then you get tired of that brand and go elsewhere some other time and you can start trying different things."

Arena said that Starbucks is a brand that people know and that City Newsstand offers a different experience than the national chain. He said that the shopping district needs a mix of national brands and local businesses.

"My job is to think more globally about the area and what are the opportunities we can create here," Arena said. "If we can slow some people down that they are not seeing Six Corners as just a place to get through to where they are going, this creates more commerce for us.

"I am the pedestrian guy. I fought for the pedestrian street designation and expanded it where I could. It’s a matter of creating a balance and catching traffic and also creating a walkable dynamic."

Some residents asked if it is feasible to change the direction of Berteau or other streets to ease congestion.

"I proposed changes to one-way streets before, and people get crazy when you try to reverse a street," Arena said. "We are introducing a new dynamic to the area than what it is now, and we will have the city engineers look at that."

"I hear what people are saying," Arena said. "Some don’t want a drive-through and some are fine with it. We need to minimize the negatives. I think we’ve got to a good start."

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